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November 10, 2012

Rex Holland says few good times, just absence of bad times

Courage Under Fire

STILLWATER, Okla. — You don’t have much spare time in a combat zone.

Rex Holland knows. Even though it’s been decades he still has memories - mostly bad. Memories of frigid trenches and the fear.

He commanded a platoon in the trenches of the Korean War and served as a senior province advisor during the Vietnam War.

Holland began his military career in college while training with ROTC. Like every college student, he was looking for ways to ease education costs and found he could get 90 cents if he did advanced ROTC training, which he did.

In 1951, as the Korean War was already under way, he was offered an Army commission and took it, training to be an infantry officer.

“All college grads at that time were faced with the possibility of either being drafted or entering the military in some fashion,” Holland said.

He was assigned C Company as a platoon leader in the 25th armored infantry battalion. Holland said it was an all-black unit and before discrimination and separate units in the military were done away with.

What struck Holland about fighting in Korea was the frighteningly cold temperatures. To make matters worse, soldiers were ill equipped, Holland said.

“We weren’t prepared as we should have been,” he said.

After the war, Holland spent two years overseeing a gun range where soldiers were trained to use all manner of weapons. “We also had to fight all the range fires — we almost burned up a park one night,” he said, chuckling.

He then lived the typical life of a career military officer, hopping from city to city all across the U.S. As Vietnam began ramping up, Holland volunteered and was specially trained to be an adviser. He was then assigned as senior adviser to Sa Dec province.

“We were the liaison between the 9th Vietnamese Infantry Division and the provincial forces,” Holland said.

When reflecting on his times fighting overseas, Holland said there were few good times, only times where there was an absence of bad times.

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