Clare County Review & Marion Press

Five from area on Yellow Ribbon honor flight

Shown here are (from left) Ray Aldrich’s Guardian Don Griffin, an Army veteran, Richard Ellis retired from the USMC, Victoria Ellis retired from the US Navy and Victoria’s Guardian Leicia Romubio, retired from the USMC.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Three area Vietnam Veterans, Richard Ellis and Victoria Ellis of Clare [and her Guardian] and Ray Aldrich of Evart [and his Guardian] were all part of the first in the nation to take part in an all-Vietnam Veterans flight to Washington DC last week. They traveled with their “Guardians Leicia Romubio and Don Griffin, who are also veterans. The four Clare vets are also all members of the Clare-Farwell American Legion Post 558. Aldrich is a member of the Evart American Legion Post.
Thanks to the incredible efforts of a Kalamazoo youngster, last Saturday, June 18 marked the first time ever that the ‘Mid-Michigan Honor Flight’ was an all-Vietnam Veteran flight.
A “Star Spangled Salute honored fourteen-year-old Alice Kraatz who, as state president of the patriotic youth organization Children of the American Revolution, began fundraising for this special trip. Over the next three years Alice, who is now 17, raised $140,000, enough to sponsor an entire plane load of 180 Veterans, Guardians, support staff and media, and, of course, Alice herself, who joined the group on the flight transporting America’s Vietnam Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to honor them.
As Honorary [and former] State President of the Michigan Society Children of the American Revolution, Alice said, “All of these people had families at home that may not be living or maybe are living, or didn’t have families, and we need to be their families now and make sure they are given the honor they deserve.”
The Michigan Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight participants enjoyed a special banquet together the evening before the historic flight with speakers including Mary Ellen Byrne, the Honorary Senior National President of N.S.C.A.R. [the National Society Children of the American Revolution]; Honorary State Regent of the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] Gina LaCroix and M.S.C.A.R. current State President Jeremy Mathieu.
Dick, who had the honor to sit beside a medal of honor winner, served in Vietnam in the U.S. Marine Corps, earning many medals himself. Victoria is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam era. Aldrich, is an Airforce veteran.
The Ellis couple were one of only two married couples who were veterans, on the flight. The “Guardians” who went with them were: Leicia Romubio, [also a USMC veteran] who was Victoria’s Guardian, and Kevin a Veteran from Pennsylvania, who was Dick’s Guardian. Leicia’s husband Don Griffin, who was an Army MP in Vietnam, was the Guardian for Ray Aldrich.
Don and Leicia were sponsored for part of the costs of the trip by Jay’s Sporting Goods, Benchley Brothers and the Clare-Farwell American Legion Post. “We really want to thank thank everyone for their support,” Leicia said. “It was incredible, amazing exhausting and the memory of a lifetime.”
All said it was a wonderful experience. Victoria said, “The weather was good, the food was good and the people were good. We enjoyed it [the trip] very much. It was a very humbling experience.”
She continued, “When we got back to Kalamazoo, we got a wonderful welcome home at the Kalamazoo Wings Center including a welcoming parade. I am so glad my husband got this recognition.”
The couple live on Airport Road near Colonville. Vicky has also been a volunteer at the VA for many years and has been recognized for her service there.
They returned to Saturday evening after an eventful day including a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

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