Retired Lt. Col. John (Doc) Holladay is like many other veterans in that a love for his country runs deep through his veins.
As a senior in high school, Holladay knew doors would start opening soon, and although he was unsure what his future held at that time, he knew he didn’t want to go to college.
“In high school, my main concerns were chasing girls and sports,” Holladay said. “However, my father had a different idea for my future. One day I had a father-son talk with my father and he discussed with me how serving in the military would be beneficial to me. He was right.”
Holladay joined the Army directly out of high school at the age of 17.
Holladay served three tours in Vietnam as an enlisted non-commissioned officer, a warrant officer and a commissioned officer.
“While on tour in Vietnam at the age of 19, I saw more than most people will see in their lifetime,” Holladay said. “I became a man. The experience and involvement while serving in Vietnam were the foundation that allowed me to be the person I am today.”
Holladay also believes the experiences and events he encountered while on tour in Vietnam made him a firm believer in the Lord, and he realized the Lord had plans for him.
“I know without a shadow of a doubt the Lord was with me on two occasions while touring in Vietnam,” Holladay said. “If the Lord had not been with me, I wouldn’t be here, believe me.
Holladay set many goals while serving in the military, and one important goal was a determination to climb his way up the military ladder, just as his father did in years past.
“When I first joined the Army, I knew my father done very well as an E8 in the military; and my goal was to obtain the same rank as my father,” Holladay said. “However, after joining the military, my father was appointed to warrant officer status. I was still determined to work my way up just as my father had done. While serving on tour in Vietnam, I learned to appreciate what my father had obtained in the military, and it also made me realize that I wanted to be a helicopter pilot.”
In 1967, Holladay entered flight school and was appointed a warrant officer in November 1967. In November 1969, he received a combat direct commission to second lieutenant.
Joining the military opened numerous doors for Holladay. Not only did he choose a 27-year military career with the Army, he also continued his education by receiving his undergraduate degree and a master’s degree.
During Holladay’s military career he served as a general’s aide to two commanding major generals at the Army Aviation Systems Command. He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1990.
After retiring from the military, Holladay knew he wanted to continue to pilot aircraft, but he also wanted to help fellow veterans know they are appreciated. He decided to serve his country in a different way by participating in the Friends of Army Aviation. Holladay currently serves as president of the non-profit organization.
Friends of Army Aviation is a organization dedicated to presenting the Army Aviation story to the American people through static displays of legacy Army aircraft and an associated ride program.
“Our mission is to provide the public with an opportunity to experience the heritage of Army Aviation,” Holladay said. “We want to educate those who are aware of the importance of Army Aviation and the role it serves.”
The organization is also known for supporting the families and friends of soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in support of freedom around the world. The organization also inspires young people to consider aviation as a career and to honor soldiers who have served in the past and present. The organization also maintains, restores and preserves authentic legacy Army aircraft used in combat operations.
“It is very important to me to let every veteran know their service and sacrifices are appreciated,” Holladay said. “To me, serving with Friends of Army Aviation lets me do just that. When I came home from serving in Vietnam, I was called a baby killer and spit on at the airport. That is something I don’t like to talk about, but it is something I will never forget.
“Today, if I see a soldier, I shake their hand with a great amount of gratitude. Our society needs to know they enjoy their freedoms they have today because of all veterans.”