Remembering the life of World War II Pearl Harbor Veteran Jack Holder

At the age of 18, Jack Holder enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After completing boot camp and Aviation Machinist Mate training, he was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii as a Patrol Bomber Y squadron member. Although idyllic initially, his assignment turned to chaos when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Holder jumped into a ditch to avoid the fire, and for the next three days, he spent his time operating a makeshift machine gun pit in a trench lined with sandbags. Afterward, Holder helped continue the battle for a U.S. victory in World War II, fighting in the Battle of Midway and flying missions over Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands before being transferred to England and flying missions along the French coast and the English Channel.

After leaving the military, Holder and a successful career as a Pilot, CEO, and professional golfer. Later in life, Holder authored Fear, Adrenaline, and Excitement. After making an Honor Flight to Washington DC, he started speaking about his service in World War II, touching the lives of many veterans, and high school, students. He participated in numerous events and activities to speak about his service and remember those who died while defending our freedoms.

I met Holder with a large group of Pearl Harbor veterans as years-long participants in the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade beginning in the early 1990s. I remember seeing them all in their white pants, Hawaiian shirts, white shoes, and caps spanning the width of the street as they proudly marched in the Parade each Veterans Day. We honored the group of survivors as Veterans Grand Marshals and typically placed their entry next to the unique USS Arizona ship replica model, which is 34 feet long, with a beam of six feet, and weighing two tons. In 2004, the Parade team recognized the Arizona Pearl Harbor Survivors’ entry with its prestigious Pride Award, highlighting their exceptional devotion to graciously preserving our history. In the past few years, Holder was the sole representative of their unit, riding in a convertible to keep the memory alive.

Holder was 101 years old when he passed away in February. A touching and memorable farewell service was held for him at the Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ. The dignitaries in attendance were Congressman Greg Stanton, Congressman Andy Biggs, State Senator Ken Bennett and Mayor Kevin Hartke of Chandler, and retired U.S. Navy Admiral Jim Symonds. The executor of his estate, Darlene Tryon, was presented with a Flag flown over the U.S. Capitol, an entry into the Congressional Record and other memorabilia. World War II Pearl Harbor Survivor Jack Holder will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

As our living history continues to pass before us with the loss of so many great service members from this time, the nonprofit Honoring America’s Veterans strives to do its part to help preserve, honor, and recognize our veterans. If you’re interested in helping, email me at HAV will host the annual Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony;  this year with one of the last known Arizona Pearl Harbor Survivors, Ed Miklavic. You can learn more about this ceremony online


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