Celebrating Kipina locally: Ceremony held at same time as Arlington burial

Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps students stand at attention during a ceremony honoring Marshall Kipina at Lake View Cemetery, held concurrently Thursday with his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Garrett Neese)

By GARRETT NEESE

Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

CALUMET — More than 50 years ago, Charlsie Antikainen bought a metal POW/MIA bracelet to commemorate her friend Marshall Kipina.

Thursday morning, at Kipina’s gravestone at Lake View Cemetery in Calumet, she was able to put it to rest.

“He graduated with my first love, Pat (Coppo), who was killed in Vietnam,” she said. “They played football together. He’s just never left our hearts.”

Kipina was buried Thursday morning at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside the pilot of their plane, which crashed in Laos on July 14, 1966. Local veterans and community members held a concurrent ceremony in Kipina’s honor at Lake View Cemetery.

An Army Staff Sgt. from Calumet, Kipina, 21, was assigned as an observer on a night-time surveillance mission over Laos. He and his pilot, Robert Nopp, flew out of Phu Bai Airbase at Hue. Thunderstorms limited visibility, and the mountainous landscape cut off radar and radio contact, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Search efforts began after the soldiers did not return. The crash site was never formally determined.

“I don’t feel we should gather to mourn, but rather to celebrate,” said American Legion Post 61 Commander David Crowley. “Not to celebrate the fact that he died so young, or that he lay so long in a jungle, but to celebrate his courage, and to celebrate his coming home. Years of sadness and uncertainty, and a hope that faded over time, have been replaced by an answer to many people’s questions and prayers.”

Kipina received a 21-gun salute at the ceremony.

Having closure on Kipina’s death means everything, Antikainen said.

“Whether he’s in Arlington or he’s here, he’s back,” she said. “He’s back here with his loved ones, his friends, his classmates.”