Community mourns local veteran killed in motorcycle crash

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A community is mourning the loss of a West Michigan veteran who was killed in a motorcycle crash Wednesday.

Police say 26-year-old Army vet Michael VanHolstyn, from Grand Rapids, collided with a car that afternoon at the intersection of Randal and 64th Avenue, in Coopersville.

As we're looking into the crash and trying to learn more about Michael VanHolstyn, we found out he has a connection to the new Assistant GM for the Detroit Pistons, Jeff Nix.

He had not yet heard about VanHolstyn's death and he says it is the world's loss.

"I met Michael in 2008 in Mosul, Iraq. He was serving our country over there, and I was on a USO Tour with some other college coaches," Nix said.

VanHolstyn, just 20 at the time, made an immediate impression.

"I gravitated to him, it's not like he gravitated to me," Nix said. "The more I listened to him, the more I wanted to be around him."

When he came back to the states, he reached out to Michael's family.

"And they happened to come down to one of my fundraisers that just happened to be on Michael's birthday," Nix said.

The fundraiser was for Camouflage Kids, the non-profit organization Nix started to support military children.

"We set a video connection between our fundraiser in Indiana and Michael in Mosul," Nix said. "We surprised the family with a video connection, and it was the first time they had a chance to see Michael in quite a while."

A thank you letter from Michael's mother is still up on, saying "that was such a wonderful thing you did for us. He certainly didn't expect to be hearing happy birthday sung to him by a couple hundred or more Americans."

"You can just select people who you know are going to be good leaders for the team, and have spirit, and have integrity, and those are the same qualities I saw in Michael," Nix said. "The service that he provided to our country greatly appreciated, and to have something like this happen to him, it's devastating."

We did speak with Michael's father Wednesday night.

He says his son was a man of God, and they have faith Michael is in good hands.

The crash that killed him is still under investigation.