White House officer, Kent alum addresses Veterans Day audience

Cody Francis

Speaker tells audience to always ‘be prepared’

WATCH the deputy director of military operations at the White House speak about his time at Kent State.

Lt. Col. Dale Holland, the featured speaker at Kent State’s Veteran Recognition Event, told a story of a simple mission to Florida as an Air Force One navigator. As he was giving his sister a tour of the aircraft, news came in that President George W. Bush was on his way to the aircraft because two planes had hit the World Trade Centers.

“As you could guess, that day was Sept. 11,” he said. “A simple mission turned complicated very quickly, but we were all prepared.”

That is the message Holland tried to deliver to all the military officers, veterans, ROTC members, families, friends and military supporters who gathered to listen to him in the Student Center yesterday – be prepared.

“This is the motto I try to live by every day,” he said. “Just like the Boy Scouts, you must always be prepared.”

Holland, a 1988 graduate of Kent State, is the deputy director of operations for the White House Military Office.

“To have a Kent State alumnus come back to address current students is very meaningful to us,” President Lester Lefton said.

When speaking of his father, a World War II veteran, Holland referred to Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.” He said he greatly respects the book and the generation Brokaw refers to, but he disagrees with Brokaw’s opinion.

“As we continue the post 9-11 era, I believe today’s generation is on even par with Brokaw’s generation,” he said. ” Everyone who has fought has signed up on their own free will and accord because it is the right thing to do to ensure our freedom and protect our liberty.”

Holland said he never thought of himself as a veteran until recently. He referred to a church celebration where the pastor asked veterans from different wars and conflicts to come forward during a service. As the pastor listed off conflicts, he found himself qualified to come forward multiple times.

“The fuzzy picture soon became clear to me,” Holland said. “Yes, I am a veteran.”

Since he was commissioned from the Kent State Air Force ROTC in 1988, there have been 13 major conflicts and peace negotiations. He has been involved in four of them, most recently being a 2006 tour in Iraq.

Mitch Gordon, a sophomore nursing major and a member of Kent State’s Army ROTC program, said it was exciting to see a successful ROTC graduate come back to speak.

“It is very inspiring to see him up there and to see what he has accomplished,” Gordon said.

Lefton said Kent State’s Veterans Day traditions are important to the university because former and current Kent State students have been involved in “every major conflict and peace negotiation in the past six decades.”

“Kent State has a long tradition in service,” he said, “and this is a really meaningful tradition to have them all honored.”

Holland closed his speech with another tribute to his father and to other veterans.

“Each and every one of us has our own hometown hero, just as I have my father,” he said. “I just ask you that every year you remember to honor these people with a simple ‘Thank you.'”

Contact room and board reporter Cody Francis at [email protected].