Holly — The sky’s the limit for Holly High School graduate, Lt. j.g. Richard A. Siersma after he earned his Naval Aviator Wings on Feb. 7 at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Miss.
Siersma, 27, is the great nephew to Holly’s war hero — Karl W. Richter, and a former graduate of Holly High School. Siersma graduated from Michigan State University in 2011 where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology, and later went onto Naval Officers Training School in Newport, R.I.
His grandmother, Betty Richter Siersma, was honored to pin the Wings of Gold onto her grandson. The sister of Karl Richter, Betty is credited with teaching her famous F-105 fighter pilot brother, Karl Richter, to fly.
Richter made U.S. military history when he became the youngest Air Force pilot at the age of 23 to shoot down a Soviet MiG aircraft on Sept. 23, 1966. For his service, Richter was awarded the Air Force Cross for his skills and heroism while leading a defense-suppression flight of F-105s. Nearly a year later, Richter’s aircraft was damaged by anti-aircraft fire over North Vietnam, and as a result, sustained fatal injuries in an emergency ejection from the aircraft.
“Rick and Karl were a lot alike growing up,” Betty said. “They both were sweet kids — never bratty, both had good senses of humor, and were a joy to be around.” The similarities stopped there, Betty said, especially when it came to academics saying Rick wouldn’t tolerate anything other than an “A.”
In addition to earning his wings, Siersma was named to the Commodore’s List during Primary Flight Training, and was VT-9’s Student of the Month for June 2013. During Advanced Jet Flight Training, he earned two Navy “E” medals for bombing accuracy. Siersma completed Advanced Jet Training with Training Squadron NINE, where he received the Top Gun and Top Hook awards.
“Rick will be flying F-18s at Virginia Beach, Va., which is only natural because like his great uncle, Rick began flying at an early age with me, and with my late husband, Herman,” Betty said. “I’m very proud of him, and I’m sure his grandfather and Great Uncle Karl are both smiling down from above.”