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Shelby Township

Operation Yellow Ribbon offers aid to transitioning military vets

September 25, 2013

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — She could recite all the words and sing just about every song of the different military branches as a child — and still can to this day.

Peggy Ann Kralik, of Rochester Hills, has been surrounded by the military her whole life. Her father was deployed during World War II and only returned when she was 3 years old, and her husband, Ed, was a tanker, and she spent some time in Germany as a military wife.

In February 2012, her experiences led her and her husband to Operation Yellow Ribbon, a nonprofit organization geared toward helping those in action segue into a normal life after returning home.

“With all that is going on right now with all the different military service members around the world trying to keep us free, and some of them paying with their life, families go through a lot of sacrifice,” Kralik said. “It’s just devastating to families.”

After witnessing the trouble young military personnel had assimilating back into the lives they left, Kralik said she just wanted to help.

“There is a big need out there, some of which is being met by the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and other organizations, but it takes forever to get through the pipelines,” she said. “(Sometimes) the application (process) takes two years before you get a determination.”

Kralik said places like the Wounded Warrior Project assist those with crippling injuries, but she wanted to fill the void for the average military person trying to blend back into society.

“Every time I turn around, somebody’s talking about someone with (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” she said. “I see a need for this.”

She and her husband approached the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter 129 in Shelby Township when they decided to launch their organization in February last year because they were in search of a venue to host events.

“She was looking for a hall to use, and the treasurer and I discussed with her what her mission was, and it was pretty much what we (the DAV) were about, as well,” said Mark Williams, of Shelby Township, commander of the DAV Chapter 129. “She’s so passionate about what she’s doing and how she talks about it.”

Williams said he went to his superiors to see if Kralik could use the hall as a base for Operation Yellow Ribbon events for free; he explained that it did not seem like they should charge her for her volunteer-based organization, especially when all of its proceeds benefit struggling military families.

“The members of the chapter all agreed that we should give the hall to her for free,” he said. “And a contract will be held throughout the line of commanders down the road, so we set that in motion.”

Williams said he believes many people are jaded toward war and veterans and that, once clear of the military, it is difficult for veterans to get back into a daily routine and be accepted by society, especially because government assistance is lacking.

“Unfortunately, the way things are, people aren’t too interested and have a bitter taste in their mouth about why we’re over there in the first place,” he said. “Vets, unfortunately, are not being treated very well, but I think with what (Peggy’s) doing, things will start getting better.”

Toni Deaton, the adjutant for Chapter 129 and an Operation Yellow Ribbon advocate, works with Kralik to sell tickets to events and brainstorm unique ways to raise money.

Deaton praised Kralik’s organization for being not only a monetary provider to those in need, but also a resource center for military personnel who have returned and do not know what to do.

She said money from Operation Yellow Ribbon’s first annual picnic in August 2012 helped a young family in need, and Kralik also had several resources to direct them where to go for disability benefits and assistance programs.

“He had three weeks notice that he was separating from the service,” Deaton said. “They didn’t know anybody or where to go for food. … They didn’t have anything with which to start and had been having a difficult time without a lot of guidance.”

Operation Yellow Ribbon stood up for the family and has partnered with several community groups that provide resources to vets to meet the family’s needs.

Kralik said the next step for the organization is to launch a website. She said she and her advisory board are working on planning creative events, such as a car and motorcycle show and comedy night.

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