U.P. Honor Flight: Escanaba veteran says service helped her

WASHINGTON – Escanaba resident Dorothy Kollmann was only trying to support a friend who was interested in signing up for the military.

“My friend was going to go and I went along to give her courage,” Kollmann said. “She didn’t join but I did.”

That was back in 1953, when the then Dorothy Russo, who lived in Rochester, N.Y., signed up to join the Women’s Army Corps toward the end of the Korean War.

Kollmann shared her story as she prepared to take part in the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight, which went to Washington, D.C., Wednesday.

“My father and my uncles had served during World War II so I guess our family was military-minded,” she said. “I wrote to my dad who was in the European theater and my uncles who were in the Pacific all the time. So I had a little taste of the military.

“And I had always loved marching back when I was in school,” she said.

Kollmann served stateside, helping take care of the wives and children of the men who were serving in Korea. It was during that time, she met and married a gentleman from Gladstone.

“That’s what started the journey up this way, to the U.P.,” she said.

Kollmann lived in Cornell and Rapid River, but mainly, was in residence in Gladstone.

“It was 1957 when I came to this area. I guess I substituted Lake Michigan for Lake Ontario,” Kollmann said.

Through the years, she had six children, 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren and fell in love with the area and with some things she had learned during her time in the Army.

“All that I learned in the service really helped me,” Kollmann said. “I learned standard operating procedures. I learned how to analyze things. I learned how to observe.”

Through her day in the nation’s capital, Kollmann was thrilled with much of what she did observe.

“This is all tremendous,” she said during a break in the action. “It’s really incredible.”

Kollmann was part of the sixth mission of U.P. Honor Flight, which left the Delta County Airport in Escanaba at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday carrying 78 veterans of World War II and the Korean War and a guardian for each to the nation’s capital.

When the flight touched back down to a raucous welcome from hundreds of well-wishers at about 9:10 p.m., the veterans had experienced a whirlwind of activity including visiting the World War II Memorial, along with many other landmarks.

Throughout the journey, they were met with cheers, flag-waving and handshakes from a wide range of people including school children from Oregon, brass from the Pentagon and people who just happened upon the contingent during their own sightseeing in Washington.

A group of young military members was among those greeting the U.P. Honor Flight at Reagan National Airport, saluting the veterans as each walked past. Along with them was Michael Frazier, who lost both his legs serving as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan.

“It’s an honor to welcome the flight,” Frazier said. “These are American heroes.”

During the busy day, the U.P. veterans were treated to a show by the United States Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team, which put on a display of precision and discipline using 11-pound weapons.

“That was a terrific show,” said Rene Lippens of Gladstone after watching the performance, which took place at the Air Force Memorial. “Those young men were amazing.”

In its six missions to date, U.P. Honor Flight has taken nearly 500 veterans to Washington. Most have been World War II veterans, but the MIssion VI flight included those who served during the Korean War.

The next Honor Flight is set for Sept. 4.