By MyRon YoungJune 7, 2016
FORT BELVOIR, Virginia -- Members of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), along with family members and friends, gathered June 7, to honor the legacy of an Army counterintelligence officer who was killed during the Vietnam War.
Maj. Gen. George J. Franz III, INSCOM commanding general, presided over the ceremony and presented 1st Lt. Dennis Lee Holm's family with Holm's posthumous Military Intelligence Corps Association's (MICA) Lieutenant Colonel Thomas W. Knowlton Award. A conference room in INSCOM's Nolan Building headquarters was also named and dedicated to Holm.
Holm was deployed to Saigon, Republic of Vietnam, in July 1966, as a CI officer assigned to the 524th Military Intelligence Detachment (CI). Because of his faith and the idea of trying to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people, Holm, a graduate of Creighton University (a Jesuit Catholic University) volunteered to teach English to young Vietnamese and Chinese students at Saint John's Catholic High School, in the Cholon district of Saigon.
On May 22, 1967, while teaching his third session of the day, three Viet Cong terrorists entered the school and killed Holm in front of his students. An investigation revealed that the terrorists were operating on orders from the Chicom Southeast Asian Liberation Central Intelligence Branch and that it was reportedly a deliberate targeting of Holm, who was six weeks away from the end of his deployment.
"Today is about permanence in legacy. It's an honor and our sacred responsibility to pay tribute to and celebrate Lieutenant Holm," Franz said. "It's about our core values. Dennis was a person of faith, honor, courage and commitment - the kind of person we want to lead and represent our Army."
Franz informed attendees that the ceremony is also about Clinton R. Van Zandt who served with Holm in Vietnam and did not let go of the notion that Holm needed to be properly honored.
"Today is a celebration of the life of Lieutenant Dennis Holm," Van Zandt said. "I also bring you thoughts and good wishes from General Barry McCaffrey who supported this recognition."
Van Zandt, a senior NBC News law enforcement analyst, met retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey at the network's studios and struck up a friendship. Through Van Zandt's tireless efforts reaching out to Army leadership and McCaffrey, who in turn obtained support through Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, the Department of the Army G-2, the Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and INSCOM, the ceremony to recognize Holm was set.
"There are lots of fingerprints on this (recognition) just like Denny Holm's life has touched so many people," Van Zandt added. "Denny wanted to make his year in Vietnam count. He once wrote a letter home saying he was learning more from the children in his class than they were learning from him."
Family members attending the ceremony included Holm's wife Margaret Welch, daughter Erin Holm Welch Thaemlitz, her husband Carl, and their son Andrew. Van Zandt's wife Dianne was also in attendance.
"He was one of many who gave their lives in Vietnam and I'm sure he would appreciate this honor greatly," Welch said.
Welch thanked Van Zandt for starting the process with great perseverance that culminated in the ceremony.
"We have four sons who will carry on my father's legacy of dedication, humility, and service to others," Thaemlitz said.
Following presentation of the Knowlton Award, Holm's family and the Van Zandts were escorted to INSCOM's G2X Conference Room that was dedicated to and named in honor of Holm. INSCOM's G2X is INSCOM's operational staff for CI and Human Intelligence.
To commemorate Holm's legacy, INSCOM developed a scrapbook of photographs, news clippings, and letters. A commemorative plaque and a shadow box containing Holm's photo, awards and decorations are permanently on display in the 1LT Dennis Lee Holm Conference Room.
Welch and Thaemlitz expressed deep gratitude to all of the members of the INSCOM family who had involvement in the effort to honor Holm.
"The work you have all done for this is just amazing." Welch added.
Holm was a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) student at Creighton University from 1961 to 1965. He married Margaret in his senior year. Graduating as
the class president, Holm chose to serve his country by entering the U.S. Army and
sought assignment in the Intelligence field. He completed Officer's Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Military Intelligence Officer Course at Fort Holabird, Maryland.
According to Welch, Holm planned to attend law school upon completion of military service and enter politics, aspiring to one day run for the U.S. Senate. He is buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery, Sturgis, South Dakota.
The Knowlton Award was established in June 1995, by MICA to recognize individuals who have contributed significantly to the promotion of Military Intelligence. These individuals must have demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence, and served the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps either by military or civilian service.