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Brigadier General Diana Holland, Commanding General of the South Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the guest speaker at the NGV annual dinner.

General Holland speaks at the North Georgia Veterans’ annual dinner

Young soldiers ‘an inspiration’

At the North Georgia Veterans 9th annual dinner at the Big Canoe Clubhouse, Brigadier General Diana M. Holland, Commanding General of the South Atlantic Division of the Army Corps of Engineers, told the group of veterans in attendance that despite her preconceived notions about today’s young people, their actions have inspired her, as have military and civilian actions everywhere she has been assigned.

Brigadier General Holland graduated from the United States Military Academy and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers in 1990, something she had aspired to at a young age.

“At six I told my dad I wanted to join the Marine Corps,” Holland said.

Her dad was a Marine and had encouraged her to consider the military. About the time Holland was interested, the military academies began admitting women.

“I set my sights on West Point because it was the oldest and toughest, Holland said. “My dad dropped me off at West Point in the summer of 1986. Thirty-two years later I can say without a doubt that I was meant to do what I am doing.”

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Peter Vallone, incoming NGV president is “knighted” by outgoing president Pat Bodelson.

General Holland served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from January 2016 to June 2017. Last year she was consumed with Hurricane Maria recovery in Puerto Rico. She lived there for 90 days.

“What makes serving in the military so special?” Holland asked. “It is that you are serving something larger than yourself, that we belong to a great team, that the military gives us tremendous opportunities. But what is it about the service that makes it uniquely special? For me and I am sure any veteran, it’s the people.”

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The North Georgia University cadet color guard presents the colors.

Holland shared stories about some of the people who inspired her. One was about a soldier in Afghanistan from a platoon that had worked especially hard. He walked up to her and asked, “Ma’am when are you going to send us outside the wire (compound barriers) again?”

“They had been shot at, they had lived in the dirt outside the wire in a very unfriendly province,” Holland said. “I responded that the time was coming but for now they needed to relax a little and enjoy some hot water, hot chow and do some other things.”

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The NGV Chorus provided patriotic music at the annual NGV dinner at the Big Canoe Clubhouse.

He responded that he came to do a job, according to Holland. He said he and his fellow soldiers didn’t want to be safe and comfortable but wanted to be out there making a difference.

“That simple exchange changed my outlook on their spirit and motivation,” Holland said. “To me he represents the selflessness of our young soldiers, that they want to do the hard things that make a difference and even when being given the option of staying back and being comfortable, they instead raise their hands and say ‘send me.’ They are an inspiration.”

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Pat Bodelson presents corsages to Nona Whipple (Center left), wife of WWII veteran Bennett Whipple and Mary Jane Chester, wife of WWII veteran Lou Chester.

Six years later Holland found herself unexpectedly as the commandant of cadets at West Point, the first female to hold the position. Again she was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the cadets.

“I know I had notions about the millennial generation and was curious about how the seemingly fixed West Point culture had responded to them,” Holland recalled. “The general commentary about them being self absorbed, inward focused, demanding and tied to their cell phones and social media, etc.

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The “missing man” table at the NGV annual dinner commemorating those warriors who are no longer with us.

“But what I found was something completely different. They are just as patriotic and committed to our nation as I was when I went to West Point. They are very motivated to be army officers, to lead our sons and daughters in peace and combat and they care deeply about the future of our country.”

Holland said she recently has been inspired by a completely different group, the Army civilians who serve in the Corps of Engineers where she is currently assigned.

 

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