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U.S. National Debt:

Emblematic Service

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

"He lived to bear his country's arms.  He died to save its honor.  He was a solider . . . and he knew a soldier's duty.

His sacrifices will help to keep aglow the flaming torch that lights our lives . . . that millions yet unborn may know the priceless joy of liberty.

And we who pay him homage, and revere his memory, in solemn pride rededicate ourselves to complete fulfillment of the task for which he so gallantly has placed his life upon the altar of a man's freedom."

This poignant and apt description was part of the citation of Honor from H.H. Arnold, U.S. Army Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Corps, to recognize the outstanding service of Private Walter Elmo Holbrook who gave his life in service to our nation on June 29, 1943.  I recently had the privilege of presenting Private Holbrook's family with long-overdue medals honoring his service.  The Bronze Star; Purple Heart; World War II Victory Medal; Prisoner of War Medal; and Presidential Unit Citation with two bronze oak leaf clusters were among the awards presented.  I also had the honor of pinning the Gold Star Lapel Button, awarded to family members of those killed in conflict, on Elmo's surviving brother, Jim Holbrook. 

Private Holbrook's life and service are emblematic of the many Idahoans who have left an indelible mark of distinguished service to our nation.  Private Holbrook, known as Elmo, was born in 1914 to Mr. and Mrs. Edford Holbrook of Burley.  He graduated from Burley High School in 1933 and went into the trucking business before operating the Powers Ranch in Sublet.  The position at the ranch has been described as perfectly fitting his long-time passion of being a cowboy.  Elmo was also an active member of the Burley Christian Church, the Oddfellow Lodge and the Raft River Grange.  Elmo enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the age of 26 and was sent to the Philippine Islands to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps ground force.  He was taken as a Prisoner of War and was in the Bataan Corrigedor Death March, in which more than 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers were forced to march more than 60 miles without food and water.  He died in a Japanese prison camp in 1943.

During the presentation, Jim Holbrook recalled the words of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur at the Japanese Surrender Ceremonies September 2, 1945:  "'It is my earnest hope-indeed the hope of all mankind-that from this solemn occasion a better world will emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.'  This is what my brother gave his life for." 

Elmo gave his life in service to our nation.  I will not give up in seeing that veterans are appropriately honored and have timely access to high-quality services that respect their dedication to our country.  That is our duty to those many Idahoans, like Private Holbrook, whose sacrifices, as Commanding General Arnold expressed, "keep aglow the flaming torch that lights our lives . . . that millions yet unborn may know the priceless joy of liberty."

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