An unforgettable legacy

  • Published
  • By Story by 2nd Lt. Margaret Blice and Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson
  • 15th Wing Public affairs
Meeting as classmates in tech school, then Airmen Danny Hollister and David Chistopherson arrived at their first duty station, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii as fast friends.

U.S. Air Force Capt. David Christopherson, 204th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilot, explained the feeling of knowing that he and Hollister would work together in Hawaii.

“We were both thrilled to be in the operational Air Force and applying what we learned in tech school. Working alongside my friend and living in the dorms was a great start to our Air Force Career. Especially because it allowed Danny to be stationed a little closer to home [American Samoa]. He would often talk about his culture, the island life, and what it meant to serve his nation and represent his country, and his people.”

Another wingman Tech. Sgt. Brett Radziewicz, 535th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, recalls first meeting Hollister. “We were both loadmasters in tech school and our first squadron. We lived in the dorms and flew many missions together over two years.”

Hollister passed away in the line of duty on March 13, 2012, while participating in Exercise COPE TIGER in Udon Thani, Thailand. When news of Hollister's passing arrived, the loss was felt throughout the unit.

Hollister flew more than 2,500 hours, including 300 combat hours, while flying more than 550 sorties in his six-year tenure with the unit and the U.S. Air Force.

In the years since his passing, the unit's commitment to remembering SSgt. Hollister has manifested in profound ways.

The Hollister Auditorium, named in his honor, stands as a tangible testament to his service and sacrifice.

Drop zones bear his name, and pictures on the wall immortalize his presence. However, the heart of the unit's homage lies in the stories shared, as members recount Hollister’s legacy to those who never had never known him.

“The auditorium not only carries his name but also holds the essence of his commitment and sacrifice. Every Monday and Thursday at 0830, the squadron converges here, forming a living connection to their past and a bridge to their present,” said Christopherson.

The mission to remember Hollister was ignited by Radziewicz, which led to a collaborative effort with Christopherson and his unit leadership.

“All the credit goes to Christopherson and Raziewicz,” said Lt. Col. Paul Tucker, former 535th Airlift Squadron commander. “They were friends and fellow loadmasters with Danny during their tour in Hawaii. Through fundraising donations and engagement with the Hawaii Air National Guard and the active duty component, they proposed a solid plan and saw it through.”

The flight to American Samoa was coordinated concurrently with the squadron’s regular training mission and the plan was set in place.

As the crew began their approach to American Samoa, 154th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief Tech. Sgt. Samuel Leong highlighted the moment the U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III landed on the Tarmac.

“Being raised on an island, I had a connection with the family that went beyond words. We embraced each other with hugs and humility. Everyone of Hollister’s family members that met us onboard the C-17 felt Hollister’s presence and was very appreciative of our support and determination to honor him in his home country.”

Tucker said, “By flying the mission and telling Danny’s story, we want people to have the sense they are stepping into something larger than their own life. Letting his family know that their son and brother’s service was not in vain, but that he had an impact on those around him- that he left his legacy within the Tiger community.”

As Rev. Dr. Tony Hollister, Danny’s father, led the service celebrating his life at his home, he mentioned that he, his family and the community were filled with gratitude and respect for the members of Hollister’s unit to be in attendance.

“Having you here with us today reminds us why Danny loved serving in the U.S. Air Force. He bragged about his travels but mostly talked about the mission of helping people,” said Hollister.

During the service, Tucker pointed out, “As a squadron commander, the significance of this mission is clear: it's about contributing to something greater than oneself.”

The crew's consensus about the mission echoed throughout their time in American Samoa. “The invitation to be part of a larger narrative, a collective history, and a shared purpose is our hope that this mission will not only honor Danny's family but also personalize the U.S. Air Force, ensuring that his service lives on and is woven into the fabric of the 535th Airlift Squadron Tiger community,” said Tucker.