Profiles of Patriotism - Web Special Salute
Greg Holloway, Bee
Greg Holloway wore an Army uniform for two years in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. Today he wears a jacket covered with pins and badges revealing his love of country, a grenade necklace, a long ponytail and a few scars.
I was born at Harvard in 1946. My dad was with the Civil Service at Harvard Army Air Field. I went to school in Lincoln and left home at age 15. I had a few scrapes with the law and was married and a father when I was 17. Just a kid myself.
I was trying to enlist when I ended up getting drafted, which was fine with me since it meant serving two years and not three. My first Purple Heart was real cheap.
My unit was A Company of the 5/7 1st Air Cavalry, and I was the leader of B Team. We were headed into the A Shau Valley. We lost nearly 30 helicopters going through there. We were catching flak at 8,000 feet. We couldn’t land. With 80 pounds on my back I jumped out from about 30 feet up. I landed on the edge of a bomb crater and cut my thumb. My ankles were trashed and I could hardly walk. But you know, you just get up and do it. We were like firemen. We went wherever they needed us.
We were sent to Rocket Ridge to engage the North Vietnamese Army. I remember everything up until July 3, 1968, when I got injured again. We were on the Laos border in the demilitarized zone searching for graves and digging them up since they sometimes hid caches of ammunition with the bodies. We didn’t rebury them. Even as the team leader I still took point. I was between two big trees when the dirt started flying. Machine guns hit both trees but missed me. I got down, lost my helmet, and it rolled down the hill. The rest of my team was hidden behind logs somewhere behind me. I could feel the bullets hitting the ground and then rolling up against me in the dirt. Then they really opened up. I was scared – real scared. I left my weapon and everything but made it back to my guys.
I got my rifle back, and we were pinned down all day. We ran out of cigarettes. I knew there were some in my helmet so we laid down a steady base of fire and went and got them.
We lost a lieutenant and a sergeant to enemy fire that day. We got the officer’s body out, but the sergeant rolled downhill. We found him two days later. When I got there the NVA tossed a grenade. It put a hole in my foot, shredded my leg, shattered my shoulder, took off the right side of my face and blew a hole in the back of my head. The medic got to me and shoved rags in the hole in my head as the blood ran out. While he was working on me they threw another grenade. It malfunctioned and blew straight up, not out.
A chopper dropped a basket, and they took me out, but not before banging me against the skids. It reminded me of when I was a kid. I got hit by a Buick while riding my bike at 33rd and O Street in Lincoln. I broke my collar bone and a leg, my skull in two places, and my pelvis in seven. I flew across the street and was left hanging off a fire hydrant. They estimated the driver had been going about 70 miles and hour.
Anyway, I was so beat up that they didn’t know where to put me. I was on a hospital ship here, then shipped to a burn unit there. As far as the guys in my unit knew I was dead. I never thought I’d see them again. I came back and was an Army illustrator. I got out and drove truck.
Decades later I was in my driveway working on an old Ford when a car pulled in. The driver handed me a letter. It was from a guy in California who had a friend from Colorado who was originally from Lincoln. That Colorado guy gave the letter to his parents, and that’s who brought it to me. Through that California guy I tracked down the medic who saved my life. Thinking I was dead and that it was his fault he’d had nightmares almost every night since. We talk often now, and he doesn’t have those nightmares anymore. Through Facebook I’ve found a lot of my guys.
I’ve still got some shrapnel behind my brain, and my chiropractor is still working on getting my pelvis straightened out. I’m glad he’s up for a challenge. I create my art – I give away more than I sell. I’m alive and in heaven since hell won’t have me.
I had two brothers and two bothers-in-law in Vietnam. I don’t know how my mom kept all of the wives sane. In 1969 she was the national commander of the U.S. Army Mothers. She was a good example. I straightened out my life, and I even went back and got my high school diploma. I joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1972 and have been pretty active working on behalf of veterans. Right now I’m the chairman of the Nebraska Vietnam War Commemoration Committee, vice president of the Nebraska Veterans Home Board and chairman of the Nebraska Veterans Council.
I’ve been dead since 1968; I’m just too stupid to lay down. Ha. You’ve got to have a little bit of humor about it. You gotta live and enjoy it, or you might as well just lay down and die. I’ve had a pretty interesting life. And I enjoy living.
Sen. David Schnoor, Scribner
Air Force Master Sergeant
After spending two decades in the Air Force, Scribner native David Schnoor moved home to Nebraska to take over the family farm. With rows of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and with a cattle herd, Schnoor has plenty to do. When he was asked to fill an open position on the Scribner school board, with a lifetime of public service behind him, Schnoor agreed.
When I retired from the Air Force dad was ready to retire from farming, so my brother and I rented the family farm near Scribner where we grew up. In the military you can work a job that will help you find work on the outside, or do a job that you’ll never do anywhere else. Three years as a security policeman and 17 as a combat air controller is a stark contrast from farming.
I saw a good part of the world while in the Air Force. I joined up right out of school. I was 18. I was stationed in Kansas, Washington state and North Carolina. In 1989 I took part in a raid to free a CIA agent from a Panamanian prison. When the helicopter he flew away on got shot down we had to rescue him again. I went to Somalia in 1992. There was a lot of stuff going on for the military for several years there. In 1993 I was on a carrier getting ready to invade Haiti when the operation was called off.
People in Nebraska are different than anywhere else in the world. Friendly and outgoing. I realized while on the school board that one person can make a difference. That’s why I accepted an appointment to the Nebraska Legislature to represent Dodge County. I saw the challenge of making a bigger difference at the state level, and it is true there as well.
We have a great country, and we have a great state. We need to do our best to preserve it and make it better. As a legislator it is important for me to continue supporting the oath I’ve taken for years – to support and defend the constitutions of Nebraska and the United States.
Jennifer Carroll, Omaha
Coast Guard SK2/Storekeeper
While walking through a strip mall of military recruiting offices and finding only the Coast Guard office open, Jennifer Carroll signed up. It wasn’t what she expected.
I joined the Coast Guard because I thought it was going to be like an episode of Baywatch – flying around, dangling out of helicopters and rescuing people every day. I quickly learned that wasn’t the case.
I was on a ship anchored at Panama City, Florida. The main operations were search, rescue and law enforcement. My training was in the supply field, or “bean counter” as many called us. We did contract management, purchasing and accounting – not too exciting. I was in for 4 1/2 years and then spent 3 1/2 years in the Coast Guard Reserve. I used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha. UN-O has been ranked No. 1 in military friendliness.
Since then I’ve dedicated my life to serving veterans. I work for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Lincoln and am the educational liaison for veterans in three states. It is an honor, and it’s better than Baywatch.
Tyler Plasencio, Mitchell
Army Reserve 1st Lieutenant
Inspired by his grandfather as well as having an innate sense of duty, serving his country was just part of growing up for Tyler Plasencio.
I sincerely wanted to serve and my granddad was my inspiration. He was drafted during the Vietnam War. I didn’t feel right about becoming an adult without serving. It’s not for everybody but it’s for me.
I studied history in college and ROTC paid for most of my tuition. Now I work on granddad’s ranch and I drive to North Platte for drill weekends.
There were tens of thousands of people at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan where I spent nine months. It was like a small town melting pot of our military, local contractors and members of the Afghani Army. Leaving home to go there was the hardest part. My mind was in Nebraska. Once I got there I was so busy that home was mostly an afterthought – a place I’d be at again someday.
For me it was an adventure. Yeah, there were some scary parts. You can’t control everything so I just tried to keep an upbeat attitude. It wasn’t bad it was just different.
Tyler Hayes, McCook
Navy Hospital Corpsman First Class
McCook native Tyler Hayes saw 28 countries during his 20-year career in the Navy. He returned home in 2011 and serves on the board of directors for the 03XX Foundation, an organization helping veterans in need. He’s also a full-time student, and that’s where he’s met one of the biggest challenges of his life.
I tried college after high school but I didn’t like it. A friend was going into the Navy. We went to take the tests, and I scored well so I joined up, too. I didn’t intend to make a career of it, but once that ship sailed it just kept going.
Twelve of my 20 years were spent as a “sand sailor.” The Marines have no religious or medical people of their own, so I was attached to multiple Marine Corps units and helped take care of them medically.
I was one of the lucky ones. My unit went into some hot zones, but what I saw is nothing like what’s going on now. During my final deployment to Iraq, with no big demand for Zodiac boats in the desert, we were placed on guard duty and ran checkpoints. We did catch some Republican Guard guys trying to get home. Altogether our group fired only eight rounds from our small arms in that 45-day period. I thought of Nebraska all of the time – about the people at home and wondering what I’d be doing if I was there.
I met my wife, Sopistha, along the way. She’s from Thailand. When I finally made it home I had to remember how to talk again like a normal person. I’d be using military jargon, and people would just stare. Kinda how Sopistha did when we got to Nebraska. She still can’t quite grasp the size of our beautiful state.
I’m a patriot, but I’m not beating my chest over it. I fly my flag on holidays, but other than that I stay in the background. The guys that should be remembered are still serving now in harm’s way or have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
I now start work at UPS at 6 a.m. and then go to classes later. I’ve gotten a few degrees since moving back. I’m going after a few more. I am currently in class with a bunch of 18-something-year-olds. They ask what it was like to be in the military and to be part of a war. I don’t know how to explain it to them, as there are many things you have to experience for yourself to truly understand.
This web feature is a special supplement to our “Profiles of Patriotism” story which appeared in our January/February 2016 issue. Give us a call at (800) 777-6159 to order your copy or to begin your Nebraska Life subscription today.