By Liz Hackenmueller
Almost 50 years after Cokato resident Bob Holly served in the Vietnam War, he was left speechless after receiving an award from his brothers in the Marines.
“I had nothing to say,” Holly said. “It was quite an honor.”
Holly received the Marine of the Year Award from the Marine Corps League, Litchfield/Willmar Chevron Detachment 985, at a special presentation Nov. 10.
“Bob has been quite an asset for us,” said Gary Smith, paymaster and adjutant for the detachment. “He’s very positive, and knows how to get things done.”
Holly was on his way to the Marine Corps annual birthday dinner in Litchfield when he got a phone call asking if he was coming.
“I’m on my way,” said Holly, who was driving there with his wife.
When they arrived and took their seats, it was announced that there would be a special presentation before dinner. It was for the Marine of the Year Award, and Holly was the recipient.
Holly was stunned.
“There are so many other people more deserving than me,” Holly said.
The award is given to a member of the detachment who goes above and beyond in their dedication to the organization and service to the community.
“He’s very active in the detachment. He gets very involved with all of the activities and parades,” Smith explained.
Smith then rattled off several events for the detachment he has seen Holly at recently.
It’s that involvement, and his contributions to fundraising efforts, that earned Holly the Marine of the Year Award.
For example, Holly recently helped organize a fundraiser at a local restaurant for a Litchfield veteran who had his lower leg amputated in October. In just a few hours, the event raised more than $800 for the veteran.
“The Marine Corps League is all about primarily helping Marines in need,” Smith said. “It’s a close-knit group, because not everyone can become a Marine and they like to stay in contact with each other.”
Holly echoed that statement when asked what he is most proud of about being a Marine, “My brothers in the Marine Corps; the commaraderie. It’s not like any other branch of the military,” Holly said.
Holly, who joined the detachment in June 2014, wants fellow Marines and Navy Corpsman to know about the Marine Corps League, so they can join.
Along with his fundraising, recruitment is also part of Holly’s service.
“He’s bringing new members in,” Smith said, noting Holly’s public relations skills.
Holly comes from a family tradition of being a Marine, with his grandfather, two brothers, and one of his sons all serving in the Marines. Holly’s father was in the Army and was at Pearl Harbor.
Holly served in Vietnam as a Marine from November 1968 to June 1970.
After he returned, he retired from the service and started an insulation business, which he owned for 40 years.
He moved to the Dassel-Cokato area and has lived there since 1976.
The Marine Corps League
The Marine Corps League is a national organization, and there are about a dozen detachments in Minnesota.
The Litchfield/Willmar Chevron Detachment 985 is one of the only ones in central Minnesota. The next closest is in St. Cloud, according to Smith.
Current or former Marines or Navy Corpsmen can join.
The Litchfield/Willmar detachment was recently reactivated, about five years ago. It had been active in Willmar some time previous.
There are about 18 members in the detachment now, according to Smith.
The focus is on fundraising and community service, but it’s not all work.
“We have fun,” Smith said.
The detachment presented the flag at the Litchfield homecoming football game, distributed watermelons at another high school event, distributed American flags at area events, were “bell ringers” for the Salvation Army, performed Honor Guard services for deceased area Marine Corps veterans, and participated in parades in 2015, to name a few.
The Litchfield/Willmar detachment meets monthly, the third Wednesday of the month, alternating between Litchfield and Willmar VFW posts.
For more information or to join, contact Gary Smith at (320) 221-0440, or Bob Holly at (320) 980-8373.