Friends of Army Aviation President LTC (Ret.) John “Doc” Holladay encouraged Troy University graduates to seek out educational opportunities and to make the effort to learn from and appreciate the life experiences of those around them during his keynote address at TROY Dothan’s Spring Commencement ceremony on Sunday.
Approximately 100 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees during the 3 p.m. ceremony held at the Dothan Civic Center.
“The hurdles have been many, and your achievement is clear. Everyone here has worked hard to pass the most important milestone in your life. You and your families have sacrificed much to reach this day, working diligently to meet the criteria of the demanding course of study,” Holladay said. “As you are no doubt aware, your journey of learning is not over. In fact, it has just begun. A degree does not signify a finish of education; it is just a starting point.
“You have done much, but what you have done so far has laid the foundation for a lifetime of learning—the true test of your achievement at Troy University will be applicable as you apply and gain your entrance to the world’s classroom.”
Holladay said that to succeed in this environment, their academic knowledge must be informed by diverse outlooks.
“Who will be in this classroom? To your great benefit, there will be people unlike yourself in many respects, people with different and varying backgrounds, talents, experiences,” he said. “The metric of success will be how well your knowledge and your experience meet with others.”
Commencement fell just a day after TROY and FOAA partnered to celebrate Armed Forces Day. As a decorated Vietnam veteran, Holladay stressed the importance of remembering and honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans.
“It is vital that the youth of today see that we remember and that we are grateful. That service, sacrifice, courage and patriotism are noble attributes,” he said. “Seek out the veteran. Engage their skills, and learn from their experience, their joys, their hopes and their sorrows. Understand their commitment to purpose. Most importantly, blend their perspectives with yours and enrich your knowledge with their experience. You will be much better for it, and so will this great nation.”
Holladay concluded by reminding both the graduates and audience alike that our lives our determined by our thoughts—so think big.
“Everything begins with a thought. Life consists of what man is thinking about all day. What we think about determines who we are, who we are determines what we do. Our thoughts determine our destiny, our destiny determines our legacy,” he said. “You are today where your thoughts have brought you, and you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. People who go to the top think differently than others—nothing limits achievement like small thinking, and nothing expands possibilities like unleashing thinking.”
Holladay was born at Dublin Naval Hospital in Dublin, Ga. in 1945. He enlisted into the Army at 17 years old and went on to serve for 27 years.
His 27 years of duty encompassed three tours in Vietnam, 11,500 flight hours with 5,100 hours in active combat, serving as a Standardization Instructor Pilot for all of Vietnam during his last tour in 1971 and much more.
During his post-Vietnam military career, Holladay graduated from the Armed Forces Command and General Staff College, served as General’s Aide to two Major Generals, Company Commander for a general aviation maintenance company, Installation Transportation Officer and Army Liaison Officer for the Army Materiel Command as well as participated in Army Aviation Test Activity at Ft. Rucker, Ala.
He retired in November 1990 with two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Bronze Stars (1 with V device), 59 Air Medals (1 with V device), the Meritorious Service Medal, three Commendation medals, a Combat Infantry Badge and Master Aviator Wings.
Since 2015, Holladay has served as President of Friends of Army Aviation, a non-profit public education organization dedicated to presenting the Army Aviation story to the American people through static displays of legacy Army aircraft and an associated ride program.
Since he became president, FOAA has purchased three UH-1H Huey hulks, was accepted into the Living History Flight Exemption Program, built two additions onto the hangar at a total cost of over $1 million, flown over 21,500 passengers and grew the organizations assets to approximately $4 million and nearly 500 members.