General Douglas MacArthur made famous the saying, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”  John and Stacey Holley are by no means “old” soldiers – but soldiers and warriors, they are!  And they did not fade away.  When their son returned home, having sustained mortal wounds on a combat mission in Iraq, they were mystified, horrified, and indignant over the way returning heroes were being handled.  Thus began their crusade, not just for Matthew, but also for every other American hero who has defended freedom and done so with his or her life.  This is their story.

 In that same speech to Congress, General MacArthur also said, “In war there is no substitute for victory.”  John and Stacey were victorious in their battle – the benefits of which serve every fallen hero who returns home as did their son.  More importantly it’s a respectful and lasting memory offered the loved ones of that fallen hero, as the last measure of devotion on behalf of a grateful nation.  I have watched through them through this horrible time.  I have tried to understand their loss, comfort them in their sorrow, and catch their tears.  In all of this I have admired their strength and resolve.   

This book is about courage, integrity, and honor.  I invite you to share John and Stacey’s journey.  It is a trip you will not soon forget.

   Pastor Jim W. Baize,  Ocean View Church, San Diego, CA

Heroic efforts don’t always take place on battlefields.  What John and Stacey Holley have done to restore dignity and honor for our fallen warriors deserves more than a medal or a few headlines, it merits our nation’s eternal gratitude.

  Salvador Rivera, Former KGTV-ABC 10 News Reporter

When their only son, Matthew, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, John and Stacey Holley tumbled into the utter depths of despair.  This book is the extraordinary story of their search for healing and understanding.  A must-read for every American family with loved ones in the military.


In this story of Global War on Terror focused in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a story of families, a story of enormous sacrifice. Not just by people who wear the uniform in the theatre, but by the families back home.

— CONGRESSMAN DUNCAN HUNTER, Chairman, Armed Services Committee U. S. Congress 2003-2007

Touching story…  I have the honor of knowing this family and you won't go wrong reading this touching book - a tribute to the son lost in war and the parents who fought for the right to ensure all fallen soldiers are brought home with the respect they deserve. I would rather Matt be celebrating the 4th with his parents and family, but his memories live on.

— TINK, Five-Star Reader Review on Amazon.com


A Must Read For Anyone Who Cares About Our Military ...

Final Roll Call, 15 November 2005, Taji, Iraq:

"Specialist Matthew John Holley?"


November 16, 2005, Post Falls, Idaho:

With the ring of a doorbell, everything changed. Two uniformed men, one an Army Sergeant, the other an Air Force Chaplain, delivered the news no parent wants to hear: "We regret to inform you..."

In their well-written book Medals, Flags, and Memories, authors John and Stacey Holley share their story of what happened after they learned of the tragic loss of their only child.  Their beloved son, Matt, a twenty-one-year old combat medic with the 101st Airborne Division (the Screaming Eagles), had been killed, along with three other soldiers, when their Humvee was destroyed by a roadside bomb.

A few days later, their grief turned to outrage when they learned that Matt's remains would be arriving as common freight at San Diego's Lindbergh Field.  No honor guard, no display of respect, his flag-draped coffin would simply be "transferred by forklifts and baggage handlers, like a crate of auto parts."  Their precious son, a gifted artist and a 2003 U.S. AAU National Champion Black Belt, gave his life for his country and he deserved better than that.  What he deserved was a Hero’s Welcome.  With only hours to spare, this brave and determined couple, both former members of the Army, set out to make that happen.

Within a week of Matt's funeral, they would take their story to the national media.  Because of their tragedy, they would help get a law changed that would ensure all fallen service members are treated with the upmost respect when their remains are returned home.

A fast read, this story will stay with me for years.  As the mother of a young soldier, I was compelled to keep turning the pages, despite the fact that I have my own worries and fears.

Huge Thumbs Up!  Full of Heart and Hope.

Kathleen M. Rodgers, Author of the Award-Winning Novel, The Final Salute


There Is More Than One Hero Here ...

What makes a hero? Matthew Holley was certainly one, he gave his life for his country.

But this book is about more than Matthew and the depth of grief his parents feel when they learn of his death in Iraq.

It's the story of what comes next? Where does a parent turn when their life has been turned upside down? It's a heart wrenching story of how Stacey and John Holley turned from themselves and towards God and mankind.

Their mission became to see that each fallen hero is returned to their family with honor and respect. They had no other agenda. They were not looking for fame. They were not looking for personal gain. They did not set out to become heroes.

Medals, Flags and Memories takes you on their journey to make that goal become a reality and beyond. It takes you into the heart of parents who have lost the most precious thing they have, their only son. It takes you on their journey to bring comfort to other gold star parents.

Stacey and John are heroes and their son would be so proud of them.

I have only one disappointment in this book. I would have loved to have heard more from Stacey and her journey to healing. That is a tiny disappointment and I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to those whose loved one is in the military.

Cozette Morstein, Four-Star Reader Review on Amazon.com


Something for everyone ...

It doesn't matter whether you have someone serving in the military now, or have no experience dealing with this aspect of society.  This book changes you.  Through this book readers gain insights and explore pathways on how to maintain your dignity while moving through pain and recovery.

In poignant terms these two co authors describe methods to regain your poise when the unimaginable happens.  In somewhat modest tones, John and Stacey offer valuable life lessons on coping and perseverance.  Through their eyes we understand their journey to reengage, to again become constructive participants in this continuous rebuilding process we call life.

These two writers, parents, citizens, brought change to an aspect of our American military experience; arguably to some extent making history.  A new law was enacted.  Also through this book, we are reminded how grace demonstrated through courage and restoration gives us all hope.

Anyone who reads this book will be touched by the story and not disappointed by the tale.

VM, Five-Star Reader Review on Amazon.com


Gold Stars Shine Forever

Medals, Flags and Memories is a must read if you have any patriotism at all in your soul or you care for our troops in harm’s way and their families left behind.  It is an absolute "have to read" if you are a Gold Star father, mother, brother, sister, grandparents, etc.  My wife and I became Gold Star parents about a year and a half before John and Stacey.  I can tell you it wasn't something we wanted to be a part of.  John and Stacey have handled their lot in life extremely well. Pressing the lawmakers to change the way our heroes are brought home is a monumental accomplishment.  We have been there and watched as other Gold Star families received their loved ones in the honorable way they are handled now.  I have been mad at God for seven years now for taking my youngest son.  After reading Medals, Flags and Memories, I realized that God wasn't at fault.  My son had free will and he chose to join the military in a time of war.  I now place sole blame on the coward who placed the bomb that took his life.  John and Stacey, job well done.

SGT. Joseph D. Johnson, Five-Star Reader Review on Amazon.com


The Holley Family is an Inspiration to Everyone ...

I had the honor of escorting John Holley, the co-author of the book, and six other Gold Star family members to Iraq.  His book is not only a very good account of our trip to Iraq, but it is a very inspirational story of how a family struck by the horrendous death of their only child was able to marshal the strength to move forward.

The book describes their tenacity in getting federal law changed so that the remains of our heroic military men and women would return to their home towns with full military honors, and not like common freight as had been the case.  "The Holley Provision" in the law is testimony to their devotion to do what is right, a trait they obviously passed on to their son who was so dedicated to protecting the security of America.

You will also be inspired by John's tale of going to Iraq to see with his own eyes what was going on and what has been accomplished by our military involvement there.  He tells how he found such a grateful people, with distinguished leaders, both united in great appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Gold Star families.

The book will bring you to tears, but you will be rewarded with a better knowledge and understanding of the fantastic people that make up our military community.  The Holley family makes you proud to be an American.  Definitely read the book.

SAL RUSSO, Five-Star Reader Review on Amazon.com


As a military mom, I was not sure what to expect with this book.  It had come at the recommendation of my daughter who served at Ft Campbell Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division (MP).  Her husband, Michael, had been friends with Matthew Holley and Jenna found great solace in his memorial site outside her building at Ft Campbell.  I must say that this was the most ‘raw’ book that I've ever read - John & Stacey left nothing out of their journey.  They shared their joys in raising Matt from childhood into adulthood and the incredible grief of his death.  They share their selfless story of how they created the Holley Provision and also John's story of going back to Iraq.  This was such a beautifully written story.

I loved when Stacey said, ‘When I arrived at that place of total surrender to His transforming power, it became so much easier to thank Him daily, no matter what life placed in my path.’ - There is never a day that goes by that I don't cover this family with my prayers because I just can't forget this story.  May we never forget our soldiers, their families and their sacrifices.

DEBBIE ISER-WEASENFORTH, Five-Star Reader Review on Amazon.com

An incredibly inspiring and healing book!! 

I had the distinct pleasure of serving with "Doc" Holley prior to going to Iraq until that terrible day.  He was a good kid and a good Soldier, and I remember being able to interact with him on a daily basis, as the Battalion Aid Station at FT Campbell, KY was across the hall from us.  I'll be honest- this was one hell of a tough read for me, because of my personal connection to Doc and what happened.  For years, I carried the burden of "Survivors Guilt" because only about 72 hours prior to the attack that terrible day of November 15th, I was on patrol in that sector.  Our vehicle must have rolled over the spot where the attack happened 2-3 times, and nothing happened.  Why Doc, and his buddies and not me?  What made ME so special?  Why? I don't know, and I never will.  But after connecting with the Holley family just prior to the release of this book, I spoke to John for over an hour and it felt like I had known him my entire life.  I was able to share my story with him, and finally let go of my burden.  John told me it was OK.  Even after having gone through therapy for my PTSD, it still hurt.  John and Stacey Holley, through their OWN pain, forgave ME.

This book, and what these fine people did to ensure that my Brothers and Sisters returning home that final time get the honor and dignity they deserved, is nothing short of amazing and truly inspiring.  By them sharing their pain and struggles, it can show others who suffer in the same way that there IS healing, and there IS a "light at the end of the tunnel" no matter how difficult it may seem.  As a soon-to-be Social Worker that works at a non-profit veterans outreach, I see the pain military families go through, and this book is important in that it can show others that there is life even after suffering such a terrible loss.  I'm PROUD to call John and Stacey "Brother and Sister", and I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone.

DONALD MccASLAND, Sergeant First Class, US Army (Retired)






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