Derek Holland was born in April 1988 and attended Pen Argyl High School in Pen Argyl, Penn. During his senior year, he enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard. He also studied information systems technology at the Career Institute of Technology (CIT), a vocational school in Pennsylvania. After his graduation from both in 2006, he was assigned to the 228th Brigade Support Battalion in Bethlehem.
In March 2008, Holland deployed with his unit to Afghanistan. He was stationed in the Paktia province, where he provided security to the Gardez Provincial Reconstruction team, which supported Afghanistan’s efforts to rebuild its infrastructure. A few months later, in June 2008, Holland was killed when an improvised explosive device targeted his vehicle while he was serving near a town called Zormat. He was 20 years old.
Holland’s life was subsequently honored by his community and his former superiors. The mayor of his hometown, Wind Gap, Penn., stated that Holland’s “patriotism and dedicated service to his country make him a hero … for all Americans,” while the principal at his former high school indicated that he was a “thoughtful kind of person.” In the military, his supervisor said that Holland was “one of the most decorated soldiers [he has] known,” and the Pennsylvania adjutant general said that he “was an energetic young man who was admired by his fellow soldiers for his work ethic and devotion to duty.”
He was also honored by NASCAR at its 2021 “600 Miles of Remembrance,” an event held during Military Appreciation Month to honor the sacrifices of service members and their families. During Memorial Day Weekend, the racing vehicle number “18” displayed Holland’s name on its windshield.
Holland was also posthumously awarded a Combat Action Badge and a Purple Heart. Funeral services for him were held at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, where he was buried with full military honors.
We honor his service.