Born and raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Jerry Holliman followed in the footsteps of the rest of the men in his family and joined the military. Most of them enlisted in the U.S. Navy, one of them enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, but Jerry was the only one to enlist in the U.S. Army.
Instead of being drafted, Jerry volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War. “I served for the flag. The flag is the only thing that unites us people,” explained Jerry. He completed Basic Training at Fort Ord, California, and received an accelerated promotion that allowed Jerry to serve as a squad leader in the 101st Airborne Division over in Vietnam.
Jerry’s service extended well beyond the Vietnam War. Active duty stationed him in Egypt for Operation Bright Star and the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley in Northern Iraq. Jerry participated in 37 convoy missions in Iraq from 2004 and 2005. In 2010, Jerry was honorably discharged after 40 years in the Army. He had reached the rank of Sergeant Master.
After so many years of service, Jerry sustained an array of service-connected disabilities. The exposure to Agent Orange while he was in Vietnam led to three types of cancers, diabetes, and gout in his hands. He is unable to give himself insulin injections because of his hands. In Iraq, Jerry was involved in a mortar explosion that resulted in his entire body being injured. On top of the physical injuries, the transition to civilian life wasn’t any easier. “There was no cool down period once you left the military. You return to society in the middle of a fever pitch,” Jerry said. “Over time, you just have to adjust to that.”
In the beginning of 2017, a tornado took out the A/C in Jerry’s home. Jerry’s limited mobility has made dealing with the Mississippi heat extremely difficult. Purple Heart Homes will provide a new HVAC system thanks to Kessler Federal Credit Union and the National League of Cities. When asked what this assistance means to him, Jerry says, “This will restore a way of life where I can get around and live. Why live like an animal, I’ve done that in war!”
Thank you for your many years of service and welcome to the Purple Heart Homes family, Jerry!