• Kayla Colyer-Platzer and her sister, 1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, listen to a safety briefing prior to a CH-47 Chinook Army orientation flight that was offered as a part of "Soldier for a day activities" for the teenager June 15, at Fort Greely. Vandall wrapped her hair in a T-shirt, as is common practice for deployed female Soldiers, as a means of relating to her sister, who keeps her head wrapped due to the hair loss she experiences as a side effect of the chemotherapy she undergoes as a part of her Hodgkin's disease treatment.

    Ailing teen becomes a Soldier for a day

    Kayla Colyer-Platzer and her sister, 1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, listen to a safety briefing prior to a CH-47 Chinook Army orientation flight that was offered as a part of "Soldier for a day activities" for the teenager June...

  • 1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, helps her sister, Kayla Colyer-Platzer, strap into a harness as Spc. Jeffrey Slaughter, B Company, 152nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49, observes, June 15, prior to an Army orientation flight at Fort Greely, Alaska.

    Ailing teen becomes a Soldier for a day

    1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, helps her sister, Kayla Colyer-Platzer, strap into a harness as Spc. Jeffrey Slaughter, B Company, 152nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49, observes, June 15, prior to an Army orientation flight at...

  • 1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, helps her sister, Kayla Colyer-Platzer, with the communications equipment as their mother, Deborah Platzer looks on, prior to a flight on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as a part of "Soldier for a day" activities at Fort Greely, Alaska, June 15.

    Ailing teen becomes a Soldier for a day

    1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, 49th Missile Defense Battalion, helps her sister, Kayla Colyer-Platzer, with the communications equipment as their mother, Deborah Platzer looks on, prior to a flight on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter as a part of "Soldier for a...

  • Crew members and participants in the Army orientation flight featured June 15 at Fort Greely for 15-year-old Kayla Colyer-Platzer and her family hold a flag that was later carried within the CH-47 Chinook during the flight.

    Ailing teen becomes a Soldier for a day

    Crew members and participants in the Army orientation flight featured June 15 at Fort Greely for 15-year-old Kayla Colyer-Platzer and her family hold a flag that was later carried within the CH-47 Chinook during the flight.

  • Spc. Jeffrey Slaughter, B Company, 152nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49, observes Army training lands with 15-year-old Kayla Colyer-Platzer, while sitting in the rear of a CH-47 Chinook June 15 during an Army orientation flight. The flight was offered as a part of “Soldier for a day” activities for the youth, who is battling Hodgkin’s disease.

    Ailing teen becomes a Soldier for a day

    Spc. Jeffrey Slaughter, B Company, 152nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49, observes Army training lands with 15-year-old Kayla Colyer-Platzer, while sitting in the rear of a CH-47 Chinook June 15 during an Army orientation flight. The flight was...

  • Staff Sgt. Dean Vandall, Alaska Army National Guard, helps his sister-in-law, Kayla Colyer-Platzer, with her hearing protection prior to an Army Orientation flight at Fort Greely, June 15.

    Ailing teen becomes a Soldier for a day

    Staff Sgt. Dean Vandall, Alaska Army National Guard, helps his sister-in-law, Kayla Colyer-Platzer, with her hearing protection prior to an Army Orientation flight at Fort Greely, June 15.

FORT GREELY, Alaska -- Lately Kayla Colyer-Platzer's reality has been consumed with her battle against Hodgkin's disease. However, the 15-year-old high school student was able to get a break from her worries, June 15, when she became a Soldier for a day at Fort Greely.

When Colyer-Platzer arrived at the post from Lewiston, Pa., June 11, with her mother, Deborah Platzer, to spend some time with her sister, 1st Lt. Nicole Vandall, she had no idea what her older sister had in store for her Monday.

"I told her she was going to be my secretary today in the office," Vandall said, who is a military police officer with the Alaska Army National Guard's 49th Missile Defense Battalion. "She thought she was going to be running back and forth to the printer and the copier."

However, with the help of Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers and the support of units and organizations from throughout the installation, Colyer-Platzer was able to gain an idea of what it means to be a Soldier in Alaska through a variety of firsthand experiences.

According to Vandall, her younger sister was given the rank of corporal for the day in honor of the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer. The teenager began the day by attending physical training at 6 a.m. and then had opportunities to ride in a humvee, visit the 49th MDB's missile field, experience the Engagement Skills Trainer and sample a ravioli MRE for lunch. The highlight of the day, however, was a flight in a CH-47 Chinook with the Soldiers of Fort Wainwright's B Company, 1st Battalion, 152nd Aviation Regiment, Task Force 49.

The Soldiers provided the flight to Colyer-Platzer, Vandall and Platzer to help the family gain a better understanding of Army aviation and to give them a bird's-eye view of the unique environment Alaskan Soldiers work and train in daily.

After the family received an orientation on the aircraft and a safety briefing, the family secured their seats in the Chinook and took flight as a part of a 30-minute exploration of the area's training lands.

Although all on the flight were able to take in the scenery, Colyer-Platzer likely had the best view, as she was able to move around the Chinook because she was secured with a "monkey-harness" that was fastened to the floor of the aircraft and allowed her to explore the craft while it was in flight.

The teenager showed little hesitation when Spc. Jeffrey Slaughter, B/152nd, took her by the hand and led her to the rear of the aircraft, where they sat with their legs dangling into the open air as pristine Alaskan training lands unfolded below them.

Although Colyer-Platzer had a difficult time expressing what she was feeling prior to the flight, she had no problem describing what it was like to take in such a view once they were back on the ground.

"It was scary but fun," she said. "It was amazing. There's got to be a God." Platzer was truly touched Soldiers would go to such great lengths to be there for her daughter throughout the day.

"It's just amazing that so many people would go through all this effort," she said. "We're from 4,000 miles away, and (that) all of these people would put forth so much effort to making her day special. It's amazing."

Vandall said it's been challenging to be so far away from her family during such a time of crisis.

"This young lady right here has been my rock," she said of her sister as a tear rolled down her face. "And she's always said she wanted to be a Soldier, that she's destined to be a Soldier."

Fulfilling that wish is something Vandall said she is grateful so many people came together to make a reality for her sister.

"It amazes me that so many people are willing to put forth the effort to make something like this happen," she said. "I know I couldn't have done it by myself. I would have been able to ride in the Humvee and that would have been it if it was just up to me."

Although several units provided support, Vandall said the BOSS program took steps from beginning to end to create the best possible experience for her sister.

"They helped us with raising money for the plane tickets, and they helped with coordination for the (helicopter) flight," she said, adding single Soldiers also participated in the morning PT session and at various other times during the day to make Colyer-Platzer's experience as genuine as possible.

However, while the day may have been an escape from the reality of the Hodgkin's disease the teenager was diagnosed with May 7, the truth is Colyer-Platzer still has a long road ahead of her, her mother said.

"The outlook's good. It gets worse before it gets better. The chemo makes her very sick," Platzer said of her daughter. "We spend days at a time at the hospital. We get home for two weeks and go back and do it again."

Colyer-Platzer and her mother returned to Pennsylvania Tuesday to continue the fight against the disease, and Vandall said she was grateful to be able to make her sister's load a little lighter, even if it was for just a day.

"I was just hoping everything would work out. Now I can relax," she said Monday. "I feel good knowing that she enjoyed the day."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16