Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eric Holke laid to rest

CRESTLINE - Sgt. Eric Holke was always eager to try something new, whether it was working in the backcountry for the California Conservation Corps, doing living history at Renaissance fairs or serving in the military.

As a costumed fair participant, he traveled to events all over Southern California. Life in the Army and later the California National Guard took him further afield to bases in the U.S., one tour of duty in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.

Holke, 31, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, serving with the 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry, California Army National Guard, Fullerton, when he died July 15 in a non-combat-related incident in Tallil.

"It's very sad that he is gone," said his sister, Erin Holke. "I wish he was still alive and coming back to his huge family and all the things he loved to do."

According to family members, Holke, formerly of Crestline, was killed when the Humvee he was in tried to avoid hitting an Iraqi and flipped over.

The accident took place only weeks after he was deployed to Iraq. He leaves behind his new wife and son, parents, sister and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

The young man spent his early years in Riverside, where he was a typical boy playing computer games, riding his bike, swimming in his aunt's pool and joining in Cub Scout activities.
He took an early interest in history, watching shows about World War II and other military conflicts on the History Channel with his dad, Jack Holke.

When he was in sixth grade, the family moved to Crestline, where he became a fan of the great outdoors. He hiked, skied and snowboarded whenever he could.

"He loved living in the mountains while he was a child," Jack Holke recalled.

After taking an audio-visual class in a Regional Occupational Program and filming sports at Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, Holke became interested in film.

"He wanted to become a director and producer and create short films," said his aunt, Monika Holke. "That became his dream in high school."

He continued studying film and also worked at the TV and radio stations at San Bernardino Valley College.

Ready for a new adventure, he left the college and went into the California Conservation Corps.

He spent the next two years out in the middle of nowhere in Northern California with everything he needed on his back.

When Holke returned from the wilderness, he became active in Renaissance fairs.

He did most of his presentations at the Koroneburg Renaissance Festival outside of Corona and Norco but also traveled to other fairs.

His specialty was demonstrating how the German military lived in the 1400s through 1600s, according to Pat Long, a cousin and producer of Renaissance fairs.

And he excelled at it, recalled Tom Wilson, a fellow fair producer.

"It was a lot of fun seeing him get into the character," he said. "You could talk to him for an hour and he would still have the accent."

Eager to learn new skills and get money to go back to school, Holke enlisted in the Army in 2000.

He served with the 82nd Airborne, like one of his grandfathers, a much-decorated World War II veteran.

He went to Afghanistan and then to Iraq with the 82nd Airborne before being honorably discharged from the Army in 2005.

Back in Riverside, he studied business and film at San Bernardino Valley College, did re-enactments at Renaissance fairs and joined the California National Guard.

It was nice to have him around again, his aunt recalled.

"He was the kind of young man if you looked in his eyes and saw his smile, he would be in your heart forever," she said.

In that same happy period, Holke met the love of his life, Cassidhe.

The couple married in January, and they shared a home with her 16-year-old son, Steven, whom he considered his own.

But their time together was brief. He was called up and left in March for Camp Shelby, Miss.

Holke was deployed in June to Iraq. Stationed in Kuwait, he was on an escort convoy transporting supplies.

In phone calls home to his family, he spoke of his pride in serving his country and everything he hoped to do when he came home.

"He wanted to earn a bachelor's degree in business, get into the film industry and start a new life with his wife and Steven," said Monika Holke. "Mostly to continue with what he left behind."

At Holke's funeral service Sunday at Evans-Brown Mortuary in Sun City, the military presented five medals, including the Bronze Star, to his family.

From the San Bernardino Sun

Related Link:
Eric M. Holke dies 'of wounds sustained from a non-combat related incident'