MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – When the United States Army sends envoys to knock on the front door of a home, it is typically not good news.
It is usually tragic and results in tears and sobs as Americans learn a loved one won’t be coming home.
But Jack Sipe could barely contain his excitement as the two military men arrived at his Middletown home Friday morning. He was flying his U.S. and U.S. Marine Corps flags on the flagpole in front of his house.
“I’m a little nervous to be honest with you,” Sipe confided just before the 11 a.m. arrival.
The two men, one in uniform, the other civilian, were ushered into Sipe’s dining room and offered seats around the table.
“I wish we didn’t have to wait this long,” began William Cox with the Army’s Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, “but we’re gonna bring him home and it’s gonna be on a date that you choose.”
For two hours, Jack and his sister Mary Lou got an official briefing on their uncle, Captain Arthur Halfpapp. They were given dossiers with letters from high-ranking officers, charts, graphs and photos.
Halfpapp was a U.S. Army pilot shot down over Italy in 1945, just 15 days before the end of World War II.
Cox slowly and patiently went over the biography and biology. Halfpapp’s remains were discovered a year ago by an Italian excavation team. They sent bones to the Army who had Jack and Mary Lou swab their mouths for a DNA test. The family got confirmation Friday that it was a match.
“Today is really a success story that we are able to identify the remains of Captain Halfpapp and bring him back to his family so they can have the closure that they deserve,” said Captain Randall Hall, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard officer who will guide the family through the burial process.
The Army has an entire office devoted to such reunions.
“If we send our young men and women over to fight our battles, then we owe it to them to bring them home,” Cox said. “Not only do we owe it to them, we owe it to their families.”
Jack was just a young boy who remembers talking to Halfpapp the day before he left for the war. Jack never saw him again, but never forgot the kind man he knew as his Uncle Archie. On Friday, the family decided to bury Halfpapp at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery on April 14. He will get full military honors and the Army will pick up the tab.
“My whole life I didn’t think this was possible, I thought he was lost forever,” Sipe said. “When this came to light a year ago it blew my mind.”
Since World War II, the Army has 43,000 personnel missing in action across the globe. They vow to never stop looking and when a soldier is found to bring ’em back.
“I can’t think of a greater honor than going into somebody’s house and saying, ‘it’s been 70 years. We found him. We’re bringing him home,’ ” Cox said.
“What better news can we give a family that after all this time we’re able to bring him home.”
After two hours, an exchange of phone numbers and emails, and a promise to be in touch, the military men left.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Sipe said with a smile. “Real good.”