Washington County, WI – On Saturday, May 20, 2023, 87-year-old Vietnam Army veteran Richard “Dick” Holt of Hartford, WI, will be joining 14 other Washington County vets on the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
When Dick Holt set out to enlist in the Navy Reserves he had no idea how his military story would play out. Following his physical at the recruiting station, he was advised that he did not pass his physical and told to cross the hallway to the Army recruitment office and apply there, which he did. “I was a teen, I didn’t know nothin.’ So I go through the same physical line, they put us on a bus and sent us to Fort Chaffee, AK – we arrived at 4:30 in the morning,” he said.
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Holt went through Army boot camp, then continued to Diesel Engine Repair school for 12 weeks in Fort Belvoir, VA. Following his schooling he received orders for Korea.
It wasn’t meant to be as he and the soldiers that were in his group waiting at the train station in D.C. to travel to their next duty station were rounded up by the MPs. The soldiers, including Holt, were brought back to Fort Belvoir for another year of school for Corporal missiles (short range), making liquid oxygen, and numerous other tasks alongside the Corps of Engineers.
“Then I got assigned to an Artillery Battalion and we left for Germany a couple of weeks later,” said Holt, “We got our equipment when we got to Germany and went to Kitzingen. We were attached to the 525th Engineering Artillery Battalion near Wurzberg. I was there for a little over two years supporting artillery.”
Holt was kept busy repairing the Corps of Engineers’ bulldozers, generators, and diesel engines. “We did work for them and they paid our bills. Our barracks were in Kitchigen so we got to come back to the barracks one week per month to wash clothes, clean up and do whatever we wanted to do. The rest of the time we were on the road fixing stuff here and there,” he said.
One of Holt’s memories of his time in Germany was when he was sent to Nurnberg by his Commanding Officer (CO). It was during a time known as “Nazi weekend and soldiers were not to be on the road. The MP officer in Kitchingen told us “We’ll give you a piece of paper and you’ll be okay.” “We got met in Nurnberg by a bunch of Nazis who tried to tip over our truck. They kept shaking and shaking and shaking it. The German cops came by and chased them off, then took us over to the military camp and told us to stay there. We sat there for three days waiting for the Nazis to be finished playing their games,” Holt said.
Holt also talked about the time his unit was tasked with taking part in a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, for the swearing-in of President Eisenhower in 1956.
At the end of Holt’s term of service, he was a Specialist 4th Class. “Advancement in rank had been frozen for all soldiers at that time so nobody got a raise, not even the officers,” said Holt.
Holt has been married to his wife, Catherine, for 64 years. They have one daughter, Deborah, and one grandson, Bradley.
Following his military service, Holt checked out a diesel mechanic school in Kansas City but didn’t care for it. On his way home to Minnesota he drove past another school, checked it out, and spent two weeks there. Afterward, he learned that the pay was poor for jobs in Minneapolis and applied for a job with Boeing in Seattle, WA, which offered better pay. “We had just gotten married. We were two young squirts that drove out there in the middle of a snowstorm. We got stuck in the Badlands of North Dakota and had to stay a couple of days,” he said.
Holt is one of 14 veterans from Washington County, WI
that are traveling on the May 20 Honor Flight
Once in Seattle, Holt went to Boeing’s personnel office downtown after leaving his wife behind in a hotel. Unfortunately, once he had completed his paperwork at the Boeing office he couldn’t remember what hotel he had left his wife at. He never did reveal how he located her. He spent two years making Minute Man missiles at Boeing which were good for 8,000 miles.
Holt moved his family back to Hutchinson, MN once they learned that his father-in-law was sick. He picked up a job at 3M in St. Paul and worked there for 35 years.
Following retirement, they followed their daughter and newborn grandson to the south-central Wisconsin area and settled in Hartford which they had driven through numerous times and thought it looked like a “pretty nice little town.” They have been residents of Hartford for 18 years now.
Holt’s Honor Flight chaperone is his grandson Bradley who resides in Cedarburg. “Bradley will be my pusher,” said Holt, referring to being pushed in a wheelchair. He is looking forward to the Honor Flight trip, “I’ve been to D.C. two or three times since I got out of the Army. We’ve also taken bus tours there such as when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. I want to see some of the things that are new.”
“My Dad was drafted but he was one day too old once he arrived at the recruiting station. We lived way out in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota. By the time he got to St. Paul in the morning and took his physical, he was informed he was a day too old and was turned away,” said Holt.
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight is the Milwaukee area hub of the Honor Flight Network. Founded in 2008, Stars and Stripes Honor Flight has flown more than 7,600 WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans from southeastern Wisconsin on a one-day, all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C.
Two veterans have asked that their names not be made public.