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Book recalls fallen classmates

WHS grad in West Point Class of 2004

By Robert Cloud

Gray LineA former Waupaca resident who graduated from West Point is among the essayists in a book about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jim Wilson, who graduated from Waupaca High School in 2000, said his West Point Class of 2004 lost more members in combat than any class since the Vietnam War.

He and another West Point classmate, Cory Wallace, put together a series of essays about each of the 14 classmates who died in the conflict in the Middle East.

Called “The Strong Gray Line: War-time Reflections from the West Point Class of 2004,” the book also features 13 essays about the war.

Wilson helped organize the project and co-authored the introduction.

He also wrote a tribute for his former roommate and friend, Jason Holbrook, of Burnet, Texas. The chapter is titled, “Texas Drawl, Keen Wit, and a Heart of Gold.”

“Jason and I bonded quickly,” Wilson wrote in his tribute to Holbrook. “We were both from small towns – he from Burnet (population 6,084) and me from Waupaca (population 6,069).”

Wilson describes Holbrook as “quiet, but very smart, reflective, and someone you knew would always be there for you.”

After West Point, Holbrook would go into the infantry, while Wilson would become a military intelligence officer with an aviation unit out of Fort Hood.

Wilson was deployed on a humanitarian mission in Pakistan following the earthquake, from February through May in 2006.

From September 2006 through December 2007, Wilson was deployed at Camp Taji with the 1st Calvary Division.

Wilson would see Holbrook again in a chow hall in Kuwait as they both prepared to go with their units into Iraq in the fall of 2006.

“The meal ended quickly and we bid each other adieu, unsure when we’d meet again,” Wilson recalled in his tribute.

They saw each again in late 2008 when Holbrook introduced Wilson to his fiancee.

In 2009, after serving in Korea as a security officer, Wilson transitioned from active duty to reserves, graduated from Stanford Graduate School of Business and is currently working in retail technology for Westfield Shopping Malls.

On July 29, 2010, Holbrook was killed near Tsagay, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

“He had just recently deployed, but he was where he wanted to be – again leading soldiers,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson said he began working on the book in 2011.

“Corey Wallace and I had been plebes together in the same company with Jason,” Wilson said. “He tossed out the idea that we need to do something to remember our fallen comrades. We were also looking forward to our 10-year reunion in 2014.”

Wilson said the basic idea was to find someone who was close to each classmate to write a chapter.

“We had a pretty good response,” Wilson said, noting they spent nearly three years compiling the chapters.

“I spent a lot of hours editing and chasing down people to get their stuff done,” Wilson said.

They found a publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, and the book was released in October.

“We plan to donate any royalties we receive as authors to charities selected by the families of our classmates,” Wilson said.

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