Promise kept: Van Rooy stops at Vietnam wall

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the midst of the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight Wednesday, Lee Van Rooy kept a promise.

The promise didn’t directly have to do with the veterans on the trip, all of whom served in either World War II or Korea.

Instead, Van Rooy followed through on something having to do with a Vietnam War veteran, a 21-year-old who did not come home from that war.

“We were up in Lake Linden as the American Legion Post there was doing a fundraiser for Honor Flight,” said Van Rooy, who has been an Honor Flight volunteer since it began in the U.P. three years ago. “While we were there, some folks from the Lillian Larson Post 114 in Greenwood Location brought money for the (benefit) kitty, too.

“They made a request that I do something when we were in Washington and I of course was happy to do this.”

The request was to pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Marshall Frederick Kipnia who was born in Calumet Dec. 18, 1944 and went missing in Laos on July 14, 1966 as a member of the U.S. Army. Through the years, there have been reports Kipnia was a prisoner of war, at least for a time. He was declared deceased by the U.S. government, but the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall page lists him as missing in action.

The request was Van Rooy place a tribute ribbon and photo near the spot on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in which Kipnia’s name is included, on panel 9E, row 20.

Van Rooy did that and then went one step further. Although Kipnia’s name was rather high up on the Wall, Van Rooy was able to do a rubbing of the name with a bit of assistance from some schoolkids from Pennsylvania. One youngster was lifted to reach the spot where Kipnia’s name is etched. With pencil and paper, she rubbed his name as it appears on the Wall and Van Rooy will get that to the Lake Linden American Legion folks.

“The fundraiser they put on was the largest Honor Flight fundraiser to date. They raised $6,000 for us, so this was something I was very happy to be able to do for them,” Van Rooy said.

As he walked from the memorial, Van Rooy shook his head.

“So young,” he said. “He was so young.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.