Missing, but not forgotten: Calumet soldier’s remains identified after nearly 52 years

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Calumet’s Marshall Kipina might have been missing for nearly 52 years, but he was never forgotten.

Staff Sgt. Marshall Frederick Kipina was born in Calumet Dec. 18, 1944 and went missing near the Vietnam-Laos border on July 14, 1966 as a member of the U.S. Army. On April 6 of this year, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported Kipina’s remains had been identified.

To pay tribute to Kipina, four Vietnam War veterans from the Calumet area brought tributes to the fallen soldier to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall during a trip Wednesday with Upper Peninsula Honor Flight.

“Marshall Kipina went into the Army right out of high school,” said James Niemela of Laurium. “In July 1966, he went out on a mission to do reconnaissance. He and his pilot in their Mohawk plane encountered adverse weather conditions. They went missing in Attopue province. … The Army said the terrain in that area was too difficult to search at first. When they did search, they didn’t find anything.”

Niemela said Kipina was at first listed as missing in action, but that was changed to killed in action some years later.

Veteran Robert Tarvis of Calumet knew Kipina.

“I lived four houses away from him,” Tarvis said. “To us Vietnam vets, with Marshall just being found, we felt it would be special to go to the wall. His classmates from the class of 1964 put together something in Marshall’s memory we want to leave at the wall.”

They also had a photo from Kipina’s military service they wanted to bring to the wall in tribute.

Wednesday, the Calumet group went to the wall to find, not just Kipina’s name, but the names of others from their community who were lost during the war. Then they spoke with the media.

“Some of us knew Marshall, some of us didn’t,” Niemela said. “But we wanted to make sure everyone knows he has never been forgotten.”

Robert Harter of Calumet said, “Marshall was an outstanding young man. He gave a lot for his country and I am glad he’s coming home.”

The four veterans were moved by the experience of visiting the wall.

“For us Vietnam veterans, it’s special to have the chance to visit the wall. It’s bone-chilling but it’s gratifying,” Niemela said. “Welcome home, Marshall. We are all having a nice time on this Honor Flight trip. For Vietnam veterans, this is our welcome home, something we didn’t receive before.”

Wednesday’s flight was the 14th taking U.P. veterans to the monuments in their honor and other landmarks in the nation’s capital at no cost to them.

This trip included three World War II veterans, 18 Korean War veterans and 58 Vietnam veterans for a total of 79, said UPHF President Scott Knauf. More than 1,000 veterans from the Upper Peninsula have made a trip with the organization.

Knauf was pleased with how Mission 14 went.

“Things went splendidly,” he said. “The weather was perfect in Escanaba and in Washington today. Everything went just as planned.”

U.P. Honor Flight Mission 15 is set to take wing Sept. 18.