Saturday, February 24, 2007

James Holtom laid to rest

CANYON COUNTY — A thousand friends and family members recalled a man who lived by values from a bygone era Tuesday at the funeral of U.S. Army Sgt. James J. Holtom.

The former Boise State University student died in Karmah, Iraq, on Feb. 8 when his armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb during a rescue mission. He was one of three Idahoans killed in the attack.

Mourners at the Treasure Valley Baptist Church ceremony referred to Holtom, 22, as a quiet and religious man who took his duties as a soldier and Christian seriously. They spoke of how he asked his fiancee’s father for permission to hold her hand and studied his Bible early in the mornings as a boy.

“He knew he was probably going to end up in Iraq, yet Jim being Jim, he knew that’s what he was supposed to do and he stayed on task,” Pastor Randy Mitchell said from behind Holtom’s flag-draped casket and in front of a large, projected photograph of Jim in combat gear. “He loved the Lord, family, church and country.”

Planned to marry Nampan

Holtom grew up in Rexburg with five brothers and two sisters. He loved driving through mud in his pickup truck, shooting rabbits, lifting weights and satisfying his large appetite for food. Holtom attended church regularly and planned to marry Melissa Sewell of Nampa in the church where his funeral was held.

Many friends and family members described Jim as a quiet man who became more vocal once people got to know him. His devotion to Christ was strong and he loved the U.S. Army.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bond, who served with Holtom, said it was impossible to remember any funny stories about him messing up in the Army because he was so much the model soldier.

“Jim was never that person to cut a corner,” Bond said. “Jim had that thing about him, that confidence.”

Holtom was a sophomore engineering student at Boise State. He earned the rank of sergeant at 21 years old. In September 2006 he was deployed to Iraq.

Fiance aware of danger

Sewell joined those who spoke of Holtom. She remembered how he teased her when she got excited about simple things like driving through a car wash. And she recalled how she appreciated his quiet nature.

“I liked how Jim wasn’t one of those guys who just talked to make noise,” she said. “Everything he said was well thought out.”

Sewell’s voice broke when she spoke of Jim’s and her and plans to marry and start a family. Holtom had purchased a small home for them in Nampa before he left for Iraq. Sewell remembered how difficult it was to drive him to the airport that last time.

“That was one of the hardest days of my life,” she said. “I was well aware that it might be the last time I saw my man.”

Holtom’s father, Dave Holtom of Rexburg, spoke of his son for about 30 minutes. He called Jim the “point of the spear” in his service for the Army, and he said the greatest honor for a man was to give his life for someone else.

Dave Holtom also called for increased efforts in missions in Iraq and the need to fight for liberty. He said his son was all the great things people said about him, but that he could get angry and lose his temper.

“He wasn’t perfect, but he was a wonderful young man,” he said. “We had 22 wonderful years with him.”

Maj. Gen. Lawrence Johnson, who signed the orders calling Holtom to active duty, conceded he did not know the soldier well. But he said the one striking memory he had of Holtom was that he was “a man who did what he said he would do” and who volunteered with “vigor and intensity.”

From the Press Tribune

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James Holtom remembered

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James J. Holtom dies of injuries from I.E.D.