DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — If you have been a WDHN viewer for any extended period of time, you have probably heard of the Friends of Army Aviation. It’s a group in Ozark dedicated to honoring Army aviation.
But you might not know the organization’s leader John “Doc” Holladay. Current president of the FOAA and a Vietnam veteran, he’s the man with a plan as well as a remarkable story of service and dedication to his country.
Doc’s military career began when he was 17 years old. After his father recommended he join the military, Doc’s mother loaded him in the car and the two headed to the recruiting station.
“I thought I was going to be able to stay home for 60 to 90 days before I actually went into the Army,” Holladay said. “But I immediately was loaded on a bus.”
Doc soon found out he qualified to be a crew chief on a UH-1, went through basic training, AIT, and ended up at the 11th Air Assault at Ft. Benning, Georgia. In 1964, Doc received his first aircraft that he named “At last.” But then everything changed.
“We received orders in June of ’65 from the president of the United States, changing our designation from the air assault to the 1st Cav Division and we were mobilized and went to Vietnam at that time,” Holladay said.
Overall, Doc served two tours in Vietnam. It was during his second tour that he developed a brotherhood unlike any other he had experienced before.
“We watched each other’s back, we took care of each other,” Holladay said. “We took rounds together, we got shot down together. There was a lot of togetherness of that crew that remains to this day.”
There is more to Doc’s story but there’s a lot that he wasn’t able to share.
“When you come back from a warzone and walk through San Francisco and people spit on you and then call you a baby killer,” Holladay told WDHN. “It’s a pretty emotional thing.”
But Doc’s story doesn’t end there.
“Having been a part of this organization that I’m part of now, it relieves me of all that hidden conflict that I had in my life,” Holladay said.
That organization is the Friends of Army Aviation.
“Our mission basically in the organization is to educate the American public about Army aviation,” Holladay said. “Let them experience the things that I did in the war, the versatility of the aircraft. We do it because of the love of the camaraderie we have for each other and the fact that we just love the UH-1 for what it did for us while we were in Vietnam.”