Michigan Teenager Sends Vietnam Veterans on Special Honor Flight To Washington, DC

“It feels so surreal that it’s actually here,” said Alice Kraatz.

It’s been a moment in the making for her since she was eight years old, when a Vietnam veteran told her a story.

“That he came back from Vietnam, and the moment he stepped outside, somebody splashes in his face,” she started to explain. “And as an eight year old, still now, I can’t fathom why somebody would do that.”

Carrying that memory with her and eager to make a change, Alice went on to serve as state president for Michigan Society Children of the American Revolution when she was 13 years old.

“I wanted to do something that was going to make a real impact on people’s lives,” she said.

She wanted to send a special honor flight of just Vietnam veterans to Washington, DC, to see the memorials that stand in their honor.

H12“I knew that other states had done these Yellow Ribbon Honor Flights with all Vietnam veterans, and it had been a much more powerful experience of healing,” Alice said.

A big challenge with a big price tag of $140,000.

While leaders were reluctant at first, this 13-year-old was not taking no for an answer.

“I knew that I had everything lined up and that I could convince them that it was feasible and I could do this,” Alice said. “It was a lot of driving around, a lot of making phone calls. I owe a lot of it to my mom.”

Alice’s mom, Elizabeth, said it was either sink or swim.

“And Alice learned that she could swim,” Elizabeth said proudly. “And each time I saw her being able to really represent her thoughts and ideas so eloquently to the public, I was able to step back further and further and just watch because I had confidence that she had confidence in herself.”

“If there was a road from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to New Delhi, India, we drove there and back, going around the state of Michigan and talking to different groups and raising funds,” Alice laughed.

Every mile driven, every second spent, well worth it.

H23Just one year later, Alice’s hard work added up to the $140,000 she needed.

She’s sent 82 Vietnam veterans to Washington, DC, as a part of the Children of the American Revolution Michigan Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight.

“I’m very excited to see especially the Vietnam wall tomorrow through the eyes of not myself, but a Vietnam veteran,” Alice said.

The flight was supposed to be a few years ago, but COVID-19 grounded all Honor Flights.H27

Alice, now 17, has had some time thinking about how she would make this once in lifetime experience extraordinary for these Vietnam veterans.

“Fortunately, it’s considered a special Honor Flight so we’ve been able to take some of her creative ideas and actually put them into action, which is something that’s not usual, Honor Flights run in a certain way,” said Elizabeth.

Like a banquet the night before the flight, gathering all 82 veterans and their guardians in one room.

“It’s just so incredible to see these faces that I worked so hard to bring here, and that they’re all they’re all so excited to be here,” she said.

One day before it’s wheels up for Washington, in an emotional day of honor, remembrance, and healing.

”I think my hope is that these veterans will feel a lasting impact from this Honor Flight and feel more willing to share what they’ve experienced in the years to come,” Alice said. “And that my generation will recognize that these men are all heroes, whether or not we agree with the war that was fought.”

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