By Amy Guckeen TolsonJuly 3, 2018
Garrison Commander Col. Tom Holliday is preparing to take the last turn in his Army career.
Holliday will relinquish command of the Garrison to Col. Kelsey Smith in a change of command ceremony Tuesday, July 3 at 10 a.m. at Bob Jones Auditorium. Surrounded by family and the friends he's made over the course of his 26-year Army career, Holliday will also say farewell to his life in uniform with a retirement ceremony at 11.
"The thing that I will remember the most, what will be lasting, is the people I have worked with and the relationships that have been built," he said. "Thinking back over my entire career, I don't think about the events so much, as the people I have worked with. That's what I plan on taking away, the memories that I'm taking with me."
Holliday took command of the Garrison, "America's Garrison of the Future," June 8, 2016. Over the course of the past two years, Holliday has come to take great pride in the service that the men and women he leads each day provide to Team Redstone.
"The bottom line is this is a great workforce," Holliday said. "I've been proud to be a member of this organization, and I'm very comfortable with the fact that they will always be able to do what's needed to be done for this installation."
In preparation for retirement, Holliday is bracing himself for a new reality -- for the first time ever, he is leaving a job, but not leaving the area. And it is thanks to the Tennessee Valley community that the decision to retire came as easily as it did.
"They tell me that when you're ready you'll know it, and it's not a hard decision. Given the community, and the fact that my family has fallen in love this place, it just made the decision easy," Holliday said. "This community basically adopted my family and I two years ago, so now we're here to stay."
While he will eventually find his way back into the workforce, in the immediate future Holliday is looking forward to simply spending quality time with his family -- wife Jennifer, and their three children, Emily, Mary Shannon and Thomas -- and getting to know the Tennessee Valley community as a citizen, rather than a leader at Team Redstone.
As July 3 marks a new beginning in Holliday's life, the date is also symbolic of where he came from, and where he is headed. For it was some decades ago, at the age of 7, that Holliday bought his first ever wargame, "Gettysburg '77," which takes players through the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1-3, 1863. The game sparked a lifelong hobby for Holliday.
Preferential to monster wargaming, "the larger the better," with 100 page rule books and intricate maps -- think of the board game "Risk" on steroids -- Holliday is actually designing a few games of his own, including one based on Utah Beach, one of the D-Day landing zones at Normandy. Retirement will finally give him the time he needs to delve into the niche pastime.
"It's the connection to the military, the military history," Holliday said. "I'd argue that the military history that I've learned in my life started by playing a game, and wanting to learn more about that particular topic."
Looking back on his own military history, if he had the chance to do it all over again -- commissioning from the U.S. Military Academy in 1992, a variety of duty stations and assignments, six combat tours in Afghanistan and 26 years in uniform -- there is no doubt in Holliday's mind that he would. As he prepares for civilian life, Holliday will miss the esprit de corps of the Army, the sense of being a part of something much bigger than himself.
"We're here for one purpose, and that's to defend the nation, to the point of laying down our lives," said Holliday, who is the grandson of two World War II veterans, who heavily influenced his decision to enter the Army.
While there is no exact rule book or winning strategy to proclaiming mission accomplished for an Army career, Holliday hopes his 26 years in service to his country can be encapsulated in four simple, but important roles -- Soldier, family man, leader, friend.
"There are many things, many individual events from my history, that I'll keep and remember, but all of those individual incidents pale in comparison to the friendships I've made and the relationships I've built," he said.