Aviano mourns airman killed by Iraqi mortar
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Airman 1st Class Antoine Holt’s primary goal in life, in the words of his wife, was “to touch as many lives as he could. That’s all he ever wanted.”
Holt, who died April 9 in a mortar attack on Balad Air Base in Iraq, obviously succeeded.
More than 1,000 people paid their respects Friday at a memorial service at his home base. Among them were members of the 603rd Air Control Squadron not currently deployed to Iraq and family members who made the trip from Atlanta. But there were plenty of others, as well.
His mother, Courtney Garmon, said she was overwhelmed by the show of support for her son, who died two months shy of his 21st birthday. She told the gathering that it helped her understand why he loved being in the Air Force.
“I just want to thank each of you for making him a part of your family,” she said.
His father, Michael Holt, said a similar service in the States drew large numbers of people as well.
“I realized then that Antoine’s family was bigger than us,” he said.
That family in Aviano included his wife, Patricia, and a 19-month-old daughter, Carmen.
Patricia Holt said she was happy to have had the opportunity to know Antoine, who was “more than just my husband. More than my soul mate. My partner. He was my best friend.”
She said the world was better with her husband around and worse off now that he’s gone: “How sad it is for this world to lose such an inspiration.”
One of those Antoine Holt inspired was fellow Airman 1st Class Jevarus Graham.
“He set the mark on how an airman should conduct himself,” Graham said.
He spoke of how Holt got the nickname “Stitch.” The two were among those pulling guard duty in nearby Maniago during an exercise. Holt cut his arm and leg on wire while trying to apprehend someone coming through the perimeter. He made a trip to the medic.
“He came back with one stitch,” Graham said, smiling at the memory.
Holt deployed to Iraq with the rest of the 603rd, one of the two air control squadrons in Europe, in November.
The 603rd’s sister squadrons at Aviano, the 510th Fighter Squadron and 555th Fighter Squadron, have served in the skies over Iraq. The 555th is currently deployed to the theater.
In fact, Brig. Gen. Mike Worden, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano, said that the flag given to the Holt family was carried aboard an F-16 that took part in a bombing run following Holt’s death. A precision-guided bomb was dropped on the ground where the mortar was fired, creating a huge crater.
But not as big as the one that Holt’s passing left with the 603rd and his family.
“I can’t say enough,” Patricia Holt said. “Words can’t describe.”