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Vietnam vet to head Veterans Day parade

Chopper pilot was featured in TV documentary
By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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KNOW AND GO Folsom Veterans Day Parade When: 9 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 11 Where: Marchers gather at 8 a.m. at Target parking lot on Blue Ravine Road. Route: East Bidwell, Coloma and Natoma streets to City Lions Park adjacent to the Community Center and City Hall.  Those roads will be closed to non-parade traffic during the parade. Information: folsom.ca.us --- Brian Holcomb’s latest call to duty came about by luck of the television remote. That’s how Chuck Harrison, a Folsom recreation supervisor and student of the Vietnam war, found the person that will serve his first stint as grand marshal in the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade next Wednesday. Harrison was watching a Military Channel special called “Goin’ Back: Vietnam,” which chronicled the return of four hand-picked veterans to the Communist nation more than three decades after they served in the protracted conflict. “One of the guys was Mr. Holcomb, and when they said he was from Folsom I perked up,” Harrison recalled. As luck would have it, the commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post had served with Holcomb, a veteran of foreign conflicts in Vietnam and Iraq, and approached him about the grand marshal opening. Regarding the TV special that caught Harrison’s eye, Holcomb said it was interesting to revisit a country that had gone through significant economic and political changes in the decades since the war. He and his fellow veterans made the 2005 trip in cooperation with the V.A. and with several mental health professionals in attendance, according to a Military Channel description of the special. The tour traveled some of the most famous locations of the war, starting with both Hanoi and Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City), and visiting the battlefields at Hue, DaNang and Hoa Lo Prison, famously known as The “Hanoi Hilton,” among several other stops. Three years before that televised return, Holcomb was asked to volunteer for active duty in a different conflict. This time, it was the invasion of Iraq that was being planned and the Army was in need of experienced chopper pilots, Holcomb said. In February 2003, he was on the border separating Kuwait from Iraq waiting for the invasion to begin. After about two months flying medical evacuation missions, Holcomb returned to the states. Asked how his experience in Iraq compared to his earlier tour in Vietnam, Holcomb said there were few similarities at the time. “Iraq was very different. The landscape’s entirely different,” he said. “Vietnam was a guerilla war where you didn’t know who the enemy was.” While that wasn’t the case initially in Iraq, Holcomb acknowledged the reality on the ground quickly changed and now considers it a guerilla war as well. “It’s a different war now than it was back in ’03.” Now retired, Holcomb called it an honor to represent his fellow military veterans in next week’s parade. Reflecting upon his decades of service, he summed them up simply. “I had a good time, learned a lot. I made a lot of good friends.” After serving as parade grand marshal next week, he may have a few more.