Family’s Sacrifice in the War on Terror
As Thanksgiving passes we continue to be thankful and celebrate the service & sacrifice of our Military Heroes and their families. Today we bring you the story of Matthew J. Holley, a combat medic in the 101st Airborne whose parents John and Stacey Holley fought for all military families to make sure all of our fallen warriors return home with the honor and respect they deserve.
John Holley was one of the Gold Star Parents we were able to take with us to Iraq in 2006. A trip he credits with helping him honor his son and move forward in his life. We have had the pleasure of working with John and Stacey Holley ever since and are so grateful for all they have done for other military families. Please take the time to read the story below and learn about their son
Thanks to the efforts made by the Holley Family the “Holley Provision” exists to ensure all of our fallen heroes return honor and respect they deserve.
The story of Army SPC. Matthew J. Holley,
On a cool autumn afternoon in November 2005 the world seemingly ended for John and Stacey Holley. With the ringing of the doorbell and the appearance of uniformed military strangers on the porch of their North Idaho home, their quiet lives were shattered by the news that their son and only child SPC. Matthew J. Holley had been killed along with three other soldiers by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Taji, Iraq. He was a Combat Medic with the 101st Airborne Division out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
Growing up, Matthew was the child that most parents hope for; he was charismatic and talented both athletically and artistically. By the age of 18 he was a three time U.S. National Karate champion and a talented amateur artist. For most who knew him, Matthew was a person of few words, choosing instead to let his actions speak much louder. He thrived on the challenge of being the best he could be.
When Matthew made the decision to become a soldier he was following in the footsteps of four generations of family members before him, including both John and Stacey. He was driven by a few valued lessons in life that he was raised on. The first to know and respect “that to whom much is given much is expected” and second that whenever the opportunity availed itself “to take his eyes off of himself and to put them on to others.”
Etched on SPC Matthew Holley’s gravestone are the following words, “To Serve a Cause Greater Then Myself”. Profound words spoken by a profound young man to his mother and father for his reason to join the United States Army and become a Medic. Matthew’s zest for life was to apply those valued lessons handed down to him and in doing so share a little of that freedom so many in our nation take for granted, or a little of that free spirit we all have.
Like so many who feel called to serve our nation, Matthew loved the Red, White and Blue. He loved the freedom it exudes and offers anyone who lives in the United States of America. As many in our generation, most will always remember that fateful Tuesday in 2001 when the towers fell. Matthew was just one week short of his 17th birthday, but as his mother reflects back, she believes that day was as much a catalyst for his decision to serve our nation as any. It was on that day that he saw the cause for freedom and all he had been raised to believe in challenged, and he expressed that “if there was one thing worse than dying, it was being alive and not being free.”
Even in the midst of their grief, John and Stacey knew that they were not the only parents who would face such a crisis. They were not the only American family destined to hear the ringing of a doorbell, or to learn the news of a loved one’s ultimate sacrifice from the lips of complete strangers.
Unbeknownst to them John and Stacey’s sorrow would quickly turn to horror when they discovered that Matthew’s casket would return to San Diego’s Lindbergh Field as common freight.
There would be no honor guard to welcome their fallen hero back to his hometown.
Instead, Matthew Holley’s remains would be carted around by forklifts and baggage handlers, like a crate of auto parts. Determined to welcome their son home with honors befitting his sacrifice to our nation, the Holley’s embarked on a quest to challenge the law, and to begin a journey of healing that would touch the lives of Gold Star families across our nation.
In 2011 the Holley’s released their co-authored book, Medals, Flags and Memories. In the book they share the story of their struggle in the weeks and months following Matthew’s death, as they fought to enact the law known today as “The Holley Provision” or as some have come to refer to them as “Angel Flights.” John and Stacey chose not to write simply a memoir of grief and loss.
Rather their desire was to share a journal of personal transformation, a guidebook for anyone who finds themselves struggling in the storm of their lives. It’s a journey of faith, love, and ultimate perseverance. But beyond all of these things, it’s an unmistakable demonstration of the American ideal in action.
Today each fallen heroes casket is met by honor guards in white gloves and crisp uniforms, instead of baggage handlers with forklifts. The legislation, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2006, and enacted by the Pentagon in January 2007.
Faced with the entrenched bureaucracy of our government, the Holley’s proved that an ordinary family can tip the scales of American justice. And, in an age where many people feel alienated and powerless, the Holley’s have shown how ordinary citizens can impact the change in federal law, and transform the world we live in.
In a sense, one world ended for John and Stacey Holley in November 2005, when Matthew died to preserve the American dream. But another world opened up, as the Holley’s discovered the power of prayer, determination and belief in the values that our great country was founded on. John and Stacey have honored Matthew’s death by reminding us that his sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those who serve our great nation is not in vain or without the honor due. That the American dream is still very much alive and well, and it is within the grasp of each citizen who dares to reach out and claim it.
Copies of Medal’s Flags and Memories can
be purchased online through www.amazon.com
You can make a REAL DIFFERENCE to our troops on the ground in Afghanistan by sponsoring a special Holiday Care Packagefilled with seasonal goodies like pumpkin spice coffee, candy corn, holiday Oreos, hot chocolate, and much, much more!