Gold Star flag ceremony gives closure to dead North Huntingdon vet’s mother
On Dec. 12, 1985, an Arrow DC-8 carrying 248 members of the 101st Airborne Division crashed over Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, killing everyone on board.
One of the victims was Michael Shipley of North Huntingdon.
On Tuesday, Marlyn Shipley received an Honor and Remember flag — and closure for her son’s death.
“This will mean a thousand things,” she said before she accepted the flag from Al Pulice of PA Hero Walk on Tuesday at White Oak American Legion Post 701. “This will be the end of not knowing anything. I still don’t know why it happened but this will bring closure for me.”
She was joined by her sons Raymond, Al and Robert Shipley, all veterans.
Marlyn Shipley is a member of Gold Star Mothers, founded in 1928 by Grace Seibold when she lost her son in World War I. The organization helps mothers who have lost a son or daughter in service to their country.
Marlyn Shipley said it took 10 years to get the flag to honor her son. She credits White Oak American Legion Auxiliary members Marsha Miller and Jackie Slinski with making her wish become a reality.
“I was unit president,” said Miller, who enlisted the help of auxiliary member Slinski. “She volunteered to research what had to be done.”
Marlyn Shipley said her son Michael, 27, was on his way back to Fort Campbell, Ky. He was planning to become engaged when he returned home.
The plane reportedly was less than 1,000 feet in the air when it crashed. The official cause was ice on the wings.
Prior to enlisting in the Army, Michael Shipley served in the Marine Corps. He earned his wings at Fort Benning, Ga., and was deployed to the Sinai Peninsula as part of a six-month peacekeeping mission.
“I didn’t get to see him before he went because I was sequestered (on a jury) for a murder trial in Pittsburgh,” his mother said. “He never returned. I never got to see him. That was hard.”
When she saw the flag, she was overcome with emotion.
“I felt like I could see Michael in that flag,” she said. “I thought, ‘You are finally in my possession, Michael, and nobody can take you away.’”
Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1916, or [email protected].