Remembering Holly’s Heroes

Holly’s Great Lakes National Cemetery

Established in 2005, Great Lakes National Cemetery is the second national cemetery built in Michigan and is the 122nd in the national cemetery system. The location of the cemetery allows for easier access to deceased loved ones for those from the central and east areas of Michigan. The only other national cemetery in Michigan, Fort Custer National Cemetery, is located in Augusta, near Kalamazoo.

Lieutenant Karl W. Richter

While Holly itself is not home to many famous people or heroes, this national cemetery allows Holly and surrounding areas to honor the real heroes and heroines who have served the United States, even after they are gone. Perhaps the most notable person to call Holly, Michigan his home town is Lt. Karl Wendell Richter. Born in October of 1942, Richter attended Holly Area Schools with his two other siblings. By age 18 he had already developed into a highly skilled pilot. Prompted by his sister Betty, he applied to the United States Air Force Academy. Nine days after graduating high school, he was on his way to the Air Force Academy. Richter became known as the youngest pilot in the Vietnam War to shoot down a communist MiG in air-to-air combat at age 23. For this, he was awarded the Vietnamese Distinguished Service Medal. At age 24, Lt. Richter was critically injured during a mission with a trainee. He was severely injured during his descent from his plane, and while he had his parachute, his injuries were enough to cause him to die en route to the hospital.

In his time with the Air Force,┬áhe earned several awards, such as the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Flying Cross with 3 Oak Leak Clusters. Also, at the time of his death, he had flown 198 missions over North Vietnam, more than any other airman at that time. In remembrance of Lt. Richter, the middle school (formerly the high school) in Holly was renamed in his honor as the “Karl Richter Campus”. Additionally, he is remembered annually at the Memorial Day celebration located in Holly. Statues of his likeness also stand at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama and on the Mall of Heroes at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.