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Original Issue

One Last Completion

An Army All-America who died a hero in Vietnam receives a long-sought honor

Don Holleder's life was defined by sacrifice. In 1955 the All-America end, at the request of Army coach Earl (Red) Blaik, switched to quarterback for his senior season. The lefthander completed less than 34% of his passes that year, but he was a winner, and that November (two days after he graced SI's cover, right), Holleder led the unranked Cadets to a 14--6 upset of No. 11 Navy. Twelve years later, outside the South Vietnamese village of Ong Thanh, Major Holleder was cut down by an enemy sniper while leading a desperate attempt to rescue U.S. servicemen who had been caught in an ambush. Holleder posthumously received the Silver Star for his actions, and in 1988, West Point named its indoor sports facility in his honor.

On April 27, Holleder will be honored again when, at Arlington National Cemetery, his Silver Star will be upgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross. The elevated honor is the result of a campaign begun by writer Terry Tibbetts—whose 2011 biography, A Spartan Game: The Life and Loss of Don Holleder, made a case for the change—and Holleder's West Point classmates.

"Everyone knew that the battlefield was a death zone, and anyone who went in probably wasn't coming out," Tibbetts says. "The upgrade for Don had been denied three times. To be part of this has been an amazing experience."