Airman Laid to Rest After 35 Years - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/11/03

Airman Laid to Rest After 35 Years

Clergy call the rain "tears from God." Loved ones wiped away tears of their own ... mourning the loss of Staff Sergeant Elmer Larry Holden...and now his return

"I just really can't explain to you how I felt about that. After 35 years we just couldn't wait to bring him home," said Judy Holden Freeman, SSG Holden's widow.

Sergeant Holden was a crew member of Jolly Green 23 - a Search and Rescue helicopter. His job was to operate the winch that would bring the pilot to safety.

"I knew what his job was. I knew what it meant to him. And I've always been proud of him," said Tina Joyner, SSG Holden's daughter.

During a dangerous mission over the A Shau Valley, Jolly Green 23 took heavy fire. But Sergeant Holden and the crew stood fast, hovering over the injured pilot. It was their final mission.

A folded American flag is all Judy Holden Freeman and her daughters have to remind them of the sacrifice their father made trying to save the life of a man he barely knew.

"We were so little when he died that we don't have a lot of memories. I feel like we've missed a lot, " said SSg Holden's other daughter, Stephanie DeLoach.

But at the funeral, the family learned something new.... Sergeant Holden and his crew completed their mission before being shot down. Such bravery earned Sergeant Holden the Silver Star, making him one of the highest decorated Airman in the Air Force.

The sacrifice of Sergeant Holden can be summed up with the motto used by the Air Force Search and Rescue teams: 'this we do so that others may live.

Reported by: David Rousseau, drousseau@wtoc.com

 

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