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FROM READERS: GI Bill allowed MU graduate to pursue goals

Monday, January 28, 2013 | 7:17 p.m. CST
Tom Holt explains that though a mobilization interrupted his college education, the GI Bill benefits he earned from his service helped him complete his education and pursue a career in civil engineering.

Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

Soon after his graduation from high school in 1948, Tom Holt began attending Westminster College in Fulton. However, his education was delayed when a major military conflict erupted, leading to an overseas deployment and a change in his career goals.  

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“While I was in school, the Korean War was beginning and one of my friends claimed I would probably be drafted,” Holt said. “He said that if I joined the (National) Guard, I would be able to finish school while also being a part of the military.”

Holt enlisted in the Missouri National Guard in 1949 and began drilling with a military police (MP) company in Fulton.

In those days, the veteran explained, a Guardsman’s indoctrination to the military did not come from attending basic training, but was learned during drill periods and annual exercises.

“We would meet for 2-3 hours, one night a week,” he said. “During those periods we received instruction on military police operations and in other military areas such as close order drills.”

Holt remained in school while training with his unit, but during his drill period of September 11, 1950, he was informed that his MP company had been mobilized.

As Holt notes, the unexpected mobilization was shocking, not because of the potential for deploying to a combat zone, but rather the disruption it would cause in his education.

After spending a couple of months training at Camp Rucker, Ala. — a military post resurrected after its World War II closure — Holt’s unit traveled to Camp Atterbury, Ind., where they performed cold weather training. The unit then traveled to Camp Kilmer, N.J., and boarded a troop ship that eventually brought them to Bremerhaven, Germany.

From there, Holt recalled, the group boarded a train that took them to their first duty assignment at Ludwigsburg, Germany.

“There were several military units in that area,” Holt said, “and we were assigned to shifts during which we would conduct patrols and various other law enforcement duties.”

As part of their responsibilities, the MPs would respond to scuffles and other situations involving soldiers. German law enforcement personnel generally accompanied the MPs since German citizens might also be involved.

Remaining in the area for only a couple of months, Holt’s group was transferred a few miles south to the town of Boeblingen in December 1951, where their duties remained similar to that of their previous assignment.

“Most of the places that we stayed had once been billets for SS troops,” Holt recalled. “I was really impressed because everything was much nicer than the barracks we had stayed in—hardwood floors throughout and tile in the bathrooms.”

In May 1952, Holt departed the country as his enlistment was about to expire, and he was formally discharged from the service the following month. Returning to mid-Missouri, he enrolled at University of Missouri the following fall using his GI Bill benefits.

“I had decided that I wanted to become an engineer,” Holt said, “and Westminster was more of a liberal arts college.”

He graduated in 1955, with a degree in civil engineering and was hired by the Missouri Department of Transportation later the same year. He remained with the department’s design division until his retirement in 1993.

Married to Virginia, his wife of 57 years, the 82-year-old Jefferson City resident said that although one of the primary reasons for joining the National Guard was to finish college, the delay caused by deployment became an unexpected benefit.

“At the time I was called up, I thought I was going to fall behind in school,” Holt said. “But when I returned I had the GI Bill, and that gave me the benefit of being able to finish school and pursue the career I wanted.”

“I can really think of no greater benefit from one’s service than GI Bill, as it allows veterans to get the education they need to successfully pursue future opportunities,” he added.  

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor Joy Mayer.


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