VFW Woodland honors resident who went MIA during the Vietnam War

WOODLAND – The local American Veterans Post 16 in Woodland will hold a rededication ceremony on Sunday in honor a former resident and service member declared missing in action nearly 50 years ago, during the most difficult period of the Vietnam War.

Melvin Holland was born in Vader, but grew up in Toledo. He was a technical sergeant in the US Air Force in the late 1960s. However, Holland was not shipped to Vietnam like many other young men were.

Rick Holland, his son, remembers seeing his father for the last time at his 8th birthday party. The next day, Melvin Holland and his wife Ann flew to Washington. The air force deployed him to the neighboring country of Laos for his tour of duty.

Rick Holland told the Daily News that his father had been sent to Laos as part of a “top secret operation”.

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Sent to operate from a base in a mountainous region of Laos known as Lima Station 85, the mission demanded that Melvin Holland be officially discharged from the US Air Force and then immediately hired by the company. American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The reason for the change was that Laos, at least on paper, was officially neutral during the Vietnam War, according to previously published accounts in media and books. Yet the Royal Lao government at the time supported American efforts against communist forces in North Vietnam.

The station was on top of a mountain covered in jagged forests, used for clandestine Air Force work to coordinate bombings in North Vietnam. A secret army of locals trained and funded by the Central Intelligence Agency provided the only protection for Station 85 in Lima.

On March 11, 1968, the station was bombed by North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao forces. During the attack, Melvin Holland disappeared. The attack resulted in the largest loss of ground forces for the Air Force in the entire 17 Year War in Vietnam.

The military declared Melvin Holland missing in action years after the events at Station 85 in Lima. Eleven men have been reported missing in action since the attack.

Only a handful of American service members lived; according Limasite85.com, 12 men died in the attack. The site is managed by Rick Holland.

Days after the Lima train station attack, President Richard Nixon ordered the Air Force to conduct covert bombings in Laos and Cambodia to bomb areas that offered North Vietnamese refuge from the American attacks.

In 1996, Ann Holland, Rick’s mother, testified before a congressional hearing. She told members, “I received a phone call one afternoon in the middle of a Cub Scout meeting and was told the mountain had been overrun and my husband was missing. A few men had been rescued, but a number of others had not been found.

“I was told that I couldn’t tell ANYBODY, not my husband’s sisters, not my children, not anyone. If I said anything and it got to the press, I could cause death of my husband!”

Ann Holland fought with the government for years to find out the truth about her husband in order to find his remains. Now in his eighties, his son Rick Holland has taken up this fight.

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Rick Holland hopes the rededication ceremony will keep his father’s spirit alive but also shine a spotlight on his father and for any service members still missing.

“It’s been my life’s mission to bring them home,” Holland said.

The Woodland VFW Post 1927 has between 120 and 130 members, most in their 60s. His post commander, Bill Malloy, said the ceremony was important. “We can never forget.”

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The Department of Defense created an agency called the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA. The main objective of DPAA is to locate and recover the remains of POWs or military personnel who went missing in action in a previous war.

Rick Holland said the DPAA traveled to the site of the battle to carry out forensic tests.

Holland told the Daily News that the DPAA discovered a bone fragment had been recovered during a dig in 2003, and in 2005 the DPAA identified it as Sgt. Shannon. And in 2005 they recovered a bone and ID from a villager, and in 2012 they declared the bone and ID to belong to Colonel Blanton, the site commander. To this day, there are still 9 men missing, my father being one of them.”

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Rick will dedicate a POW/MIA Chair of Honor, the seat is a symbol to commemorate all soldiers who have been prisoners of war or missing in action and how the living will not forget their service to their nation.

The ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 6 at Woodland VFW, 434 Davidson Ave.

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