Tim Sproles - American Legion Dept. of Indiana
Senior Airman and Hoosier Legionnaire Tony Hollandsworth has made friends, family and fellow Legionnaires extremely proud back home in Indianapolis.
Tony is currently stationed in our Nation’s Capital, where he works under the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
Looking back, Tony says that he would have never pictured himself working at the Pentagon when he was in high school.
He just always knew that he wanted to do something that helps people.
Tony says that he understood the importance of service to your community and country at a young age.
Tony’s father was an Army Combat Medic during Vietnam. Unfortunately, Tony would lose his father at a young aged when his father passed from service-related complications.
Tony’s mother also served 24 years with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Tony said that he had always felt like he had a family legacy to live up to.
He had actually taken early steps to become an emergency medical technician.
After the completion of multiple training classes, while he was in high school, Tony was on his way to becoming an EMT, but his plans changed once he turned 18.
He said, “I just wanted to do more. So, I dropped into the Air Force recruiter in January of 2014, signed my contract and I was shipped out by June”.
It didn’t take long for Tony’s Air Force career to take off.
The United States Air Force Honor Guard actually recruited Tony right out of boot camp.
“They always look to recruit new people for the honor guard for service in special ceremonies, support missions at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and support for the President and the Joint Chiefs. They put me through an interview process where I was tested in physical fitness and took part in personality evaluations”.
The USAF Honor Guard interviewed over 700 applicants. Only 9 of those applicants were selected and Tony was one of them.
However, it turns out that the USAF Honor Guard wasn’t the only group that had their eyes on Tony for recruitment.
Two members of the Indiana American Legion Family were hot on his trail.
Tony said happily, “I am in the American Legion because of Paul and Jennifer Norton”.
Tony met Paul and Jennifer while they were conducting Flag Education program at his school in Indianapolis.
Paul heads up his post’s Flag Etiquette and Education program out of the Fort Benjamin Harrison American Legion Post 510.
Paul was asked to lead a special flag presentation ceremony for a local teacher’s funeral.
He said, “I needed some of the kids to be a part of the detail during the ceremony. I asked the teachers I was working with to pick out a few of their best and brightest to help with the presentation. The name Tony Hollandsworth was immediately mentioned”.
Tony had been hand-picked by faculty members to assist with the presentation and he caught on extremely fast.
Paul said, “It’s one of those great moments as an instructor when you can see that the subject has really clicked for someone. You could see it clear as day with Tony. He was attentive and really showed a passion for the program. You just knew that the kid got it”.
After the presentation, Paul presented Tony with a military challenge coin for his diligent work, but neither Paul or Jennifer understood what their time with Tony really meant to him.
Tony said, “I just really wanted to let them know how much they mean to me. So, I thought the best way to do it would be to write them a letter”.
Tony sent the letter, but he also included a couple of additional items for Paul and Jennifer.
Paul said, “He sent a beautiful letter to us that told us about what he has been doing in Washington, but he also included two of his honor guard uniform badges. One for both Jennifer and myself. I believe they are only issued three of these badges. That is a big deal. We were honored that he thought that much of his time with us”.
Tony said that Paul’s passion for the flag and this country really helped him find that same passion in himself. Paul’s passion for the American Legion was also on display.
Tony said, “I had definitely heard of the American Legion, but I had no idea what it was. Paul spent the time to tell me what the Legion was all about and what Legionnaire have done and continue to do for our Nation’s veterans. After that, I immediately wanted in”.
He spent the next year and a half serving on funeral details at Arlington National Cemetery, was part of the Joint Service Color Team who welcomed the Pope to Joint Base Andrews and was also part of the inauguration for President Trump.
In February of 2016, Tony took a new position at the Pentagon where he works for the Secretary of Defense in the Public Affairs Office where he conducts VIP tours of the Pentagon.
“It has been very interesting. I have had the opportunity to meet with people from all over the world”, said Tony. “Being lower enlisted and being able to work beside our countries top advisers and leaders has been an amazing experience”.
Looking forward, Tony isn’t exactly sure what the future holds.
“D.C. is absolutely beautiful, but I really miss being home in Indiana”, he said.
Tony also said he still has aspirations to go into law enforcement or emergency services.
He also is looking forward to working with Paul, Jennifer and the rest of the Indiana American Legion Family.
He said, "I just can't wait. I read about all of the great things being done by volunteers to help Indiana veterans. I am ready to dive right in when I get home".
As far as Paul is concerned, “This young man has revitalized my faith that there are young veterans out there who can bring the American Legion to the next level. Servicemembers who really care about God, Country and changing the lives of our veterans”.
Together, we change lives for Veterans, their families and their communities.
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