Cops and Courts Reporter

Donovan Brink is the cops and courts reporter for The News-Review.

I had just finished carding a triple-bogey on the third hole at St. Helens Golf Course, approximately 30 miles north of Portland.

Playing solo, I took a seat on the tee box of the next hole as another player — also playing solo — appeared to be looking for his ball near a fence line to the right of the fairway. He looked back and waved at me to play through.

I hit my tee shot, walked up and started helping him look for his ball.

It was a gorgeous June mid-afternoon in 2002 when I met John Holmason.

We never did find his ball, but we finished out that round together. I learned that John was a junior at Scappoose High School. We mostly made small talk for the next five holes before going our separate ways. The next time I played that course, I ran into John in the clubhouse, and we played the full nine together.

This became a regular thing for the remainder of the 2002 season throughout the spring and summer of 2003. At one point the 2002 golf season, I had apparently lost the 7-iron from my golf bag. I had resigned myself to the fact that I had walked off and left it next to a green.

During a round late that summer, I said to John, “Man, I really could use that 7-iron right here.” He replied, “This one?” and pulled my club out of his bag with a Cheshire cat grin. Jerk had swiped my favorite club when I wasn’t looking. I still laugh about that one.

Graduation was coming up for John at the end of the 2002-03 school year, and we talked about what his goals were after high school. The Eagle Scout wasn’t particularly excited about going to college, and felt like he was leaning toward wanting to become a United States Marine.

John graduated that June, took some time to clear his mind, and in August of 2004 he enlisted in the Navy with the dream of becoming a “Leatherneck.”

After a particularly difficult week in boot camp, John told his grandfather, Dick Holmason, “If I can handle boot camp, I can handle anything.”

John was so proud of accomplishing his goal of becoming a Marine that he had “Death Before Dishonor” tattooed across his back and shoulders.

Before deploying to Iraq, John joined the rest of his family on a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Once in Iraq, John was attached to Fox Company, Second Battallion, 7th Marines regiment in Fallujah. While on foot patrol outside the city on Dec. 1, 2005, an improvised explosive device was detonated, killing John and nine other Marines.

I got the news from John’s aunt, Laurie, with whom I worked at the South County Spotlight newspaper in Scappoose. It was painful, not only knowing I had lost a friend but seeing the pain in his aunt’s eyes and in the eyes of his grandparents, who shared John’s story with me just days before his memorial service.

The Scappoose High School gymnasium was filled to capacity the morning of Dec. 11, 2005, for John’s memorial. He was laid to rest in a private ceremony at Columbia Memorial Gardens next to fellow SHS student David Heller, who died in his sleep following a basketball scrimmage just three weeks earlier.

I have had many family members serve in the military over the generations, and I think of them often. I also think of John, wondering what the 36-year-old would be up to today.

I don’t expect I’ll ever stop thinking of him and of his family. For a fairly quiet kid, his laid-back approach to life and a seemingly constant smile left quite an imprint.

There was a particular song played at John’s memorial that to this day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I stop in my tracks (and try to not cry). I’m confident his family and closest friends still do as well, 16 years later.

“It ain’t fair you died too young, like a story that had just begun,

“But death tore the pages all away.

“God knows how I miss you, all the hell that I’ve been through,

“Just knowing no one could take your place.

“And sometimes I wonder, who you’d be today.”

— Kenny Chesney, “Who You’d Be Today”

Rest in peace, Lance Cpl. Holmason. Miss ya, kid.

Donovan Brink can be reached at dbrink@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4219.

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