Family, veterans and public officials attended a memorial service for Kenneth Likens Oct. 25 at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly. The 20-year-old from Mount Clemens served in World War II and gave his life for America on Nov. 22, 1943. Marines from Wing Support Squadron 471, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, carry a casket with the remains of Kenneth Likens.

Family, veterans and public officials attended a memorial service for Kenneth Likens Oct. 25 at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly. The 20-year-old from Mount Clemens served in World War II and gave his life for America on Nov. 22, 1943. Marines from Wing Support Squadron 471, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, carry a casket with the remains of Kenneth Likens.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Local Marine from World War II laid to rest

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 31, 2019

 Likens was buried Oct. 25 at Great Lakes National Cemetery, over 7 1/2 decades after he was killed in World War II. His remains were recovered in May.

Likens was buried Oct. 25 at Great Lakes National Cemetery, over 7 1/2 decades after he was killed in World War II. His remains were recovered in May.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MOUNT CLEMENS/HOLLY — They didn’t personally know him, but over 50 people paid their final respects to a Marine killed during World War II.

Family, veterans and public officials attended a memorial service for Kenneth Likens Oct. 25 at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

The 20-year-old from Mount Clemens served in World War II and died serving America on Nov. 22, 1943, during the assault on the Japanese-held island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll.  

On Sept. 5, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA, announced that Likens, a private first class, was accounted for on May 31, 2019.

Cemetery employees indicated that it is rare for the cemetery to host a ceremony like this, with a service member laid to rest over seven decades after being killed.  

The service included a few words from clergy, a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, a presentation of the American flag, and remarks from U.S. Rep. Andy Levin and a representative from U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ office. Bagpipes played “Marine Hymn” and “Amazing Grace.”

The 21-gun salute was performed by Marines from Wing Support Squadron 471, Bravo detachment, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.

The U.S. Department of Defense is responsible for providing military funeral honors, and the law defines a military funeral honors detail as consisting of two or more uniformed military personnel, with at least one being a member of the veteran’s parent service of the armed forces.

“It’s not very common to have a situation like this,” Great Lakes National Cemetery Director Sean Baumgartner said. “It’s a great opportunity, and we rejoice that one of our own has been found.”

He said what makes a military burial all the more powerful and unique is that since nearly all cemetery employees are veterans, “We know what it’s like to serve, and we do it because we love our country. When people pass, they need to be honored for doing that, because they allow us to do what we do.”  

Likens had two siblings. His sister Marjorie Dolan died Jan. 27, 2019, and never lost hope that her brother would be found and returned home.

Likens, born Oct. 31, 1923, served in Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. His remains were reportedly buried in the East Division Cemetery on Betio, later renamed Cemetery No. 33, but he was not identified among the remains exhumed from the island after the war.

Likens’ nephew Kenneth Dolan, of Hernando, Florida, attended the service and burial, along with his wife, two daughters and more relatives.

“I feel at rest, especially for my mother, who just died in January,” he said. “She always had hope he would come home while she was still alive, so I’m here representing her. I feel proud of our country and the honor our military has, and their commitment to the fallen is wonderful.”

Dolan learned that his uncle’s remains had been identified in May.

To identify Likens’ remains, DPAA scientists used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

Prior to the service, Maj. David Carpenter, the Squadron 471 commander, said there is a very strong belief in tradition and history in the Marines.

“The legacy left behind by Marines in World War II and Vietnam, we try to follow that as much as possible,” he said. “Being able to do this for a Marine that fought in Tarawa, and died on the beaches protecting our country, and serving it, is amazing to be a part of.”

In fiscal year 2019 at the cemetery, 4,353 veterans were buried.

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