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Waterford — Army Capt. Arnold E. Holm Jr. and his best friend used to walk by the “duck pond” each day on their way to the high school.
Holm and Bill Cavalieri graduated in 1962, and Holm gave up an athletic scholarship to Springfield College to enlist. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in November 2011, after a search for his remains in Vietnam that took nearly four decades.
Cavalieri and his classmates are now raising money for a memorial in Holm’s honor. The town approved Cavalieri’s request to rename the area around the pond in the Civic Triangle the “Arnold E. Holm Jr. Memorial Park.” The project would cost between $8,000 and $10,000. A perpetual fund would also be created to maintain the park.
The money will go toward placing a granite stone with a brass plaque in the park, installing signs and maintaining the markers. Early designs of the plaque feature pictures of Holm as a baseball, basketball and football athlete in Waterford and as a young military officer.
Holm is “a local kid and a local hero,” Cavalieri said, and with a park in his name, “long after we’re all gone, hopefully his legacy will carry on.”
Nicknamed “Dusty,” Holm had been flying reconnaissance in a small scout helicopter in central Vietnam on June 11, 1972. Enemy fire sent him and his crewmates crashing through the jungle canopy.
Over the years, several attempts to find Holm and his crewmates failed, then budget cuts and a backlog of other cases stalled and threatened to stop the effort.
In 2002, Brett Arnold, a civics teacher at Waterford High School, and his students asked Rob Simmons, who was then the congressman representing the 2nd District, to step in. Later, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney worked to make sure the case was a priority for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office when he was elected to represent the district.
The crash site was excavated in 2008, and DPMO made a group identification in May 2011 of the remains of Holm and his crewmates, Pfc. Wayne Bibbs of Illinois and Spc. Robin Yeakley of Indiana.
First Selectman Dan Steward said he supports the park project because Holm was “quite a special person” who is “an important part of the town’s heritage.”
“He did an awful lot, and I don’t think many people understand how much he really did,” he said Monday.
Cavalieri said he’s planning to organize a dedication ceremony this summer at the park. A trust fund was established at the Chelsea Groton Bank to accept donations.
Donations can be sent to The Waterford Parks Foundation — Arnie Holm Fund c/o Chelsea Groton Bank/Anne Ogden, 157 Boston Post Road, Waterford, CT 06385.