CALUMET - Army Private First Class Arthur Leiviska's remains are finally being returned home after the Calumet native died as a prisoner-of-war on April 30, 1951, and local veterans organizations are doing everything they can to properly honor his sacrifice.
Sergeant First Class Joseph Battisfore from the Michigan Army National Guard Calumet Readiness Center led a planning meeting Thursday night at the center putting together a precisely coordinated Memorial Day service, slated for 2 p.m. May 28 - three hours later than the traditional service time - at Calumet's Lake View Cemetery.
"This is going to be big. I hope it is. It's what Arthur deserves," said Battisfore as he briefed veterans service organizations of the Memorial Day sequence of events. "The more participation we get, especially by the VSOs, the more impressive this is going to be."
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
SFC Joseph Battisfore leads a planning meeting with veterans groups Thursday in Calumet to discuss the return of the remains of Korean War prisoner of war Arthur Leiviska. The Calumet native died in 1951.
The service will feature an invocation by Chaplain James Hall, a detailed historical account of Leiviska's service, capture, death and recovery read by Battisfore, a sermon by Hall, musical selections, a firing detail followed by TAPS and full military honors.
"This is exactly like what would happen if somebody died in Afghanistan today," Battisfore said. "I'm really excited. Everything I want to do here, I want to make sure it's the best for him no matter what."
Lake View's typical Memorial Day service is led by the American Legion Post 61 of Calumet, and while its not uncommon to draw 400-500 people to the service, organizers hope a rare special event like Leiviska's return draws even more people.
"We have about 25 different veteranss orgs and we want them to participate. It's a big deal, a very big deal," said Post 61 Commander Joe Finch, who spent 33 years serving in the Marine Corps, retiring as a major.
The full details of Leiviska's Korean War service and the painstaking investigation that recovered his remains after he died as an 18-year-old POW are included in a March 24 Daily Mining Gazette article.
The Calumet High School Junior ROTC program always plays a key role in the Lake View Memorial Day service as well, and while active duty personnel will take over the ceremonial firing squad duties, ROTC cadets will still be part of the color guard.
"We're looking forward to the program, looking forward to rendoring the appropriate honors," said Major Michael Farley, who leads the Calumet ROTC program. "This service and other services like it prove that even in past wars, Korean War, Vietnam and other conflicts that were still trying to account for our prisoners of war and missing in action. I think that really says something important about our country.
"We have an incredibly patriotic community here, very supportive of the military and this is going to be a very impressive service. It'd be nice if people were here to see it."
While details are being finalized for the service a month in advance, organizations and individuals wishing to participate in honoring Leiviska on Memorial Day may contact Battisfore at 337-0812, extension 1, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.