Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians gathered May 24 at Camp Liberty in Baghdad for a memorial service honoring Lt. Col. Daniel E. Holland. The U.S. Army veterinarian, along with three other soldiers and a civilian interpreter, died May 18 of injuries sustained that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee during combat operations in Baghdad.
Lieutenant Colonel Holland, 43, was serving on a Civil Affairs humanitarian mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom while assigned to the 352nd Civil Affairs Command, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He is the only member of the Veterinary Corps to die in a combat setting in recent years.
Stateside, volunteer personnel with the Department of Defense Veterinary Service Activity and Veterinary Command soldiers provided an honor guard at Lt. Col. Holland's services May 30-31 in New Braunfels, Texas. Interment was at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.
Brigadier General Michael Cates, chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps, said, "Truly outstanding as a soldier, leader, Christian, husband, father, colleague, and friend, Daniel epitomized all Army values and was one of our finest Army Veterinary Corps officers. He believed strongly in what he did and (in what) our military veterinary personnel have been doing and are continuing to do, and dangerous assignments did not sway him from his duty.
"Daniel has set an extraordinary example in Iraq, just as he has done everywhere he has been, for all of us to follow."
The mission that ultimately took Lt. Col. Holland's life was one he considered vital to the future of Iraq, according to Lt. Col. William Woods, his commander. His mission was to evaluate Iraqi sites relative to public health, veterinary medicine, animal health, and agriculture. Lieutenant Colonel Woods said, "He died trying to help Iraqi farmers with their livestock."
Until his deployment to Iraq on April 27, Lt. Col. Holland had commanded the South Plains District Veterinary Command at Fort Hood in Texas. He had recently moved his family—wife Sheryl and children Rachel and Garrett—to the San Antonio area, because his next assignment was to be as an instructor at the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) Center and School at Fort Sam Houston. He would have completed his tour in Iraq just before the AVMA Annual Conference in Honolulu, where he was scheduled to be a session moderator.
Lieutenant Colonel Holland grew up in a military family and once described his commissioning in the Army as a dream come true. "Where else could a person swim with dolphins, jump out of airplanes, and help people in faraway countries take better care of their animals?" he asked.
Commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps Program, he received his DVM degree in 1988 from Oklahoma State University and entered active duty as a Veterinary Corps officer. Overseas assignments included Honduras, Haiti, and Germany, where he was deputy commander of the 72nd Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service) in Giebelstadt, commanding the detachment (VS)(Forward) for six months in the Balkan theater. Returning to the United States in 1999, he was assigned to the AMEDD Center and School at Fort Sam Houston and then to Fort Hood. Among his many military honors, he earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal (3rd Oak Leaf Cluster), and Expert Field Medical Badge. For more about his career, turn to the obituary.
At the May 24 memorial in Baghdad, letters were read from several of his Veterinary Corps colleagues. Colonel Gary Vroegindewey, director of the Department of Defense Veterinary Service, called Lt. Col. Holland a "dirt soldier," more comfortable in the field than behind a desk. According to Colonel Cliff Walker, commander of the U.S Army Veterinary Command, he was respected by the soldiers he led and was "the most engaged" district commander in the Veterinary Corps. Colonel Bob Walters, deputy director of the DOD Veterinary Service, wrote: "You were the first in line to interject veterinary support to Joint Task Force Katrina and first in line to support civil affairs when the mission came; you set the standards for service to the nation and belief in the veterinary mission. ...You influenced countless soldiers (and) your legacy lives on through (them)."