16-Year-Old Kalamazoo Girl Helps Fund Vietnam Veterans Honor Flight

After taking more than two years off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mid-Michigan Honor Flights are returning.

This spring, 80 Vietnam War veterans will have the chance to fly out to Washington D.C. to visit their memorials.

On Saturday, volunteers surprised the new passengers with phone calls, finally inviting them onto their first Honor flight.

This trip is mainly made possible by one 16-year old girl.

“This dedication and the love that she has for veterans, you don’t really see that in kids her age,” says Bob Green, President of the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight.

Alice Kraatz has become the youngest leader for the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight—raising $130,000 for the Yellow Ribbon Flight back in 2019.

“Regardless of if you have somebody close to you who’s a veteran, it’s really important to recognize these people who have supported us and our country through all these hard times,” says Kraatz.

As state president of the patriotic youth organization, Children of the American Revolution, she says she wanted to help honor Vietnam War veterans who did not receive that honor so many years ago.

“The mission that Honor Flight and C.A.R. in this Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight are trying to spread, is one of healing and just love from my generation, because to my generation, they’re all heroes,” says Kraatz.

The Mid-Michigan Honor Flight will take their 13th mission in June, with another one set for October.

“Some of these veterans have never been to Washington D.C., they’ve never gotten to see their memorial, so we’re dedicated to their service to our country,” says Green. “It really means a lot to them.”

This flight will also carry 12 terminally ill veterans and 23 WWII veterans.

“If you stop and think about that, the youngest WWII veteran we have is 94 years old, and we have 23 of them,” says Green.

While making the surprise phone calls, one member received a call of her own.

Honor Flight photographer Cheryl Colley served as an audio-visual specialist during the Vietnam War and will be attending her first Honor Flight as a veteran.

To put it simply, she feels honored.

“I didn’t go into Vietnam, I didn’t go into any war zone or anything like that, so to put me in the same boat with these veterans is unbelievable,” says Colley.

Without Kraatz’ widespread outreach and efforts, the next flight could have taken much longer to actually happen.

“It’s really, really amazing to see this, I think we’re only about 12 weeks away now from the flight leaving the ground and it’s so exciting to finally see this all coming together and happening,” says Kraatz.

For more information on the Mid-Michigan Honor Flight, visit here.