Thurston Hollar is coming home.
He lies now with his buddies from the U.S. Army's 106th Infantry Division in a field near Liege, Belgium, where they buried him on March 20, 1945. He was 22.
Hollar was a true child of the Depression who joined the Army at 16 to take his burden off a widowed mother. War came and he was shipped to the German front in October 1944. Victory was slipping off the German fingertips. He was captured in December .
The Army said Hollar died three months later of starvation in a German prison camp in Ziegelei-Bernhard following an evacuation march. He was buried across the border in Belgium.
James Hollar of Columbia, S.C., the son his father never knew, visited the Belgium grave site for the first time four years ago.
"Well...I had a long talk with him," Hollar, 34, said last week. "It was a very emotional time for me. And it was probably one of the best things that will ever happen to me."
And now T/5 Thurston Hollar is coming back home to Hickory.
After six years of frustrating work by his son and some timely string-pulling by U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond* of South Carolina, the remains of the soldier who smiles snappily from a photograph will be shipped to Hickory by the Army the week of Aug. 27 .
He'll be buried in Fairview Cemetery with full military honors, a 48-star flag and a photograph of the son he last saw when 2 months old.
The Rev. G. Dwight Conrad, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church when a memorial service was held there for Hollar on Aug. 5, 1945, has been asked to officiate at the services.
"I'm quite exhilarated," said the younger Hollar, a Columbia hairdresser known nationwide professionally as "Alexander."
One of the last wishes of his grandmother, Alice Hollar, was to have her son returned to Hickory for burial. She died in 1954. Thurston's wife, Verita, remarried and now lives in Aiken, S.C.
"I'm so proud of him (James) I don't know what to do," said Juanita Daye, one of two surviving Hollar sisters living in Hickory. "I only wish his grandmother could be here to see it."
The yearning in Hollar's own mind has been eased already. But, it hasn't left.
"Not completely," he said. "Not until I get him home. I'll feel better once I know the remains are home and that the is at peace with his mother and his brother (Thurman, who died in April .)
Thurston's father died in 1935, Hollar said. His mother, left to rear two surviving sons and two daughters, took in laundry to make ends meet in the middle of the Depression. On daughter married early to help the family.
Thurston, called "Little Jeff" after his father, joined the Army.
Entering the service on July, 1939, he spent more than four years stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C. before being shipped abroad.
He left behind his wife and baby James. They stayed with Thurston's mother in Hickory.
His entire outfit was captured by the German in St. Vith, Belgium, Hollar said. Bobbie Kirby, one of Thurston's two sisters still living in Hickory, remembers reading that the unit was without food or water when taken.
The first telegram told the family their "Little Jeff" was missing in action. The second, soon after his death, said he died as a prisoner of war following the evacuation march.
Getting him home after 34 years was a problem, Hollar said a law passed in 1951 prevented the bodies of any more World War II veterans buried in Europe from being returned to the United States.
With the help of Thurmond, Hollar got a waiver of that law. Now, he says, the Army is taking care of all transportation arrangements and will provide a military escort and color guard at the memorial service.
The body will be flow from Frankfurt, Germany, where it now is awaiting shipment to Dover, Del., and from there to a Hickory funeral home.
Hollar wants not only other family members but surviving members of the 106th Infantry Division to attend. Former GI's still ask about Thurston, the family says.
James Hollar has grown up in the shadow of a father relatives say he closely resembles.
"Some people say I'm a duplicate of him, because we resembled tremendously." Hollar said. "My father's family said I have all his qualities, whatever they were."
"He was just a loving brother, that's all I can tell you," said Bobbie Kirby. "If anyone came in contact with him, they liked him - that's just the way he was." [END OF ARTICLE]
*Note: Senator Stom Thurmond of South Carolina was the oldest person to have ever held a senate seat and served as South Carolina's state senator for 47 years 5 months, retiring in January 2003. He passed away at age 100 on June 23, 2003.
Excerpt from the website of Sgt. John Kline located at http://www.mm.com/user/jpk/memorial.htm
106th Infantry Division Memorials:
SAINT VITH, BELGIUM MEMORIAL: On "Klosterstrasse" near the College School, stands a memorial to the 106th Infantry Division. Some new buildings replace the old ones which were destroyed and housed the Divisional Headquarters in December 1944. This monument erected by the 106th Infantry Division Association is cared for by the people of St. Vith. The building behind the flags is the original memorial which was built in 1950. That building is now being used by the school. In 1995 a new memorial was erected in front of the old. The large rock comes from the St. Vith region and is of special stone noted for in that region. A brass plate on the stone has an inscription in memory of the men of the 106th that says, "Dedicated to the Men of the 106th Infantry Division who fought and died for their country 1944-45."
For more information about the U.S. Army's 106th Infantry Division's WW-II Battle History visit: