Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Mission for SFC Holman - 11Jul09

We have many choices this weekend to give back to those who gave all. The Remember the Fallen Tribute will travel to the Southwest and South of Minnesota this weekend.

We have also been invited to stand in honor of SFC John Holman on 7Jul09. SFC Holman was returned home from Korea for a soldiers funeral after 59 years. Below is the article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I am honored to stand for him....

"I always prayed that he'd get home," said a Roseville woman whose husband died in Korea.

By TIM HARLOW, Star Tribune

Lorraine Machacek had always wanted to give her first husband, lost at an early age in a faraway war, a proper funeral. On Saturday, after a 59-year wait, the 81-year-old Roseville woman finally will be able to do so.

Just four months after Machacek and John Holman were married in 1950, Holman's Army Reserve unit was deployed to the Korean peninsula, where U.S. and other U.N. forces had intervened on behalf of South Korea after a North Korean attack.

Machacek's young husband never came home. In February 1951, he was captured by Communist forces in a grisly battle near Hoengsong, Korea, and died of dysentery while in captivity, according to letters from fellow soldiers and documents from the Army and government officials that Machacek has kept in a binder for all these years.

Late last year, Holman's remains were positively identified through DNA testing by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, and they recently were returned to Minnesota.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, Holman will be buried next to his parents, Wally and Betty, during a military ceremony at Union Cemetery in White Bear Lake.

"It's bittersweet," Machacek said Monday. "I never thought the body would come back, but I [still had] always prayed that he'd get home while I'm still living. ... With the funeral, I will have some closure."

Uncertainty, then grief

Machacek met Holman, who had graduated from high school in Hastings, Minn., when his older brother, Harry, "fixed them up," she said. They were married on June 3, 1950, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul and then moved to Ames, Iowa, so Holman could study engineering at Iowa State University.

Soon afterward, he left school when his unit, the Army's 38th Infantry Regiment D Company, 2nd Infantry Division, was one of the first sent to Korea. Machacek moved to Red Wing, Minn., to live with Holman's folks.

On Feb. 12, 1951, the 23-year-old Holman, a sergeant first class, disappeared during the bloody battle of Hoengsong when Communist forces from China and North Korea overwhelmed U.S. forces near the Bean/Suan Camp. Hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they were forced into a rapid retreat and surrounded by opposing forces who took control of the only escape route, through a narrow twisting valley.
Others, including Holman, were taken prisoner. But at the time, there was no word at all about his fate, not even a missing-in-action designation, Machacek said. His letters simply stopped.

"There was a lot of anxiety there when media broadcast names and his wasn't there," she said.

It would be another two years before she and his parents learned of his fate. "Those were the worst couple years of my life," she said of the uncertainty. "It was hell." On June 9, 1953, Machacek got the news she feared most when a letter and two somber Army officials arrived at Holman's parents' home in Red Wing with the news that he had died of dysentery on April 30, 1951, while being held as a prisoner of war.

"You don't forget those letters," she said. "The day the letter came, it was both a shock and relief."

A farewell to her 'first love'

Though Machacek vowed then never to remarry, she eventually did. She said had a "great" life and realized her dream of raising a family of three children with her second husband of 53 years, Charlie, who died in 2007.

She maintained a friendly relationship with Holman's parents until they died.
Holman's remains, along with those of 200 others, were excavated in 1992 in North Korea and returned to the POW/MIA laboratories at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

Holman's lone surviving brother, Wallace, 79, of Bloomington, submitted a DNA sample, which, along with dental records, was used to identify Holman.

Without DNA testing, it's likely that Holman might never have been identified. Even with the DNA, it took the lab 18 months after it received Wallace's sample to make a positive identification.

"It's a long process," said Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Pentagon's POW/MIA Office in Washington.

Greer said the lab has identified the remains of 100 people, and still has 88,000 sets of remains, including 8,100 from the Korean War, yet to identify.

On Monday, as Machacek looked through keepsakes that included the wedding ring Holman gave her, a photo of him in uniform, news clippings and letters, she said it always bothered her that she had not been able to give her "first love" a proper funeral.

At Saturday's services, which will be conducted by the Rev. Craig Hanson of Roseville Lutheran Church, the urn bearing Holman's ashes will bear a red, white and blue bouquet and a soloist will sing the gospel song "In the Garden."

"I'm glad for this because this is how he'd want it," Machacek said. "It's been a long time coming, but he's home."

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768