Corporal DeMaret Marston Kirtley, a native of Kaycee, Wyoming, was born on March 5, 1929 to Ura Omer Kirtley and Stella Webb Kirtley. He was the youngest of six children and was known by family and friends as Marston. He lived most of his life in Antelope Basin, north of Kaycee, where he spent much of his time working on his parent’s sheep ranch with his father and brother Locke. He attended elementary school in Antelope Basin and high school in Buffalo, Wyoming.
Cpl. Kirtley proudly enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 24, 1950. In July of the same year, after receiving basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas, he would make one last trip home to Kaycee to visit his parents before leaving for Japan to fight in the Korean War. In late November 1950, Kirtley was assigned to Battery A, 57th Field Artillery Battalion. Approximately 2,500 U.S. and 700 South Korean soldiers assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team, which was deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. It was attacked by an overwhelming number of unexpected Chinese forces resulting in many American casualties. Kirtley was reported missing in action on December 6, 1950, when he could not be accounted for after the American forces withdrew to the south. He was last seen in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri, Hamgyeong Province, North Korea. Kirtley’s name did not appear on any prisoner of war lists and no returning Americans reported Kirtley as a prisoner of war. Due to the lack of information regarding his status, the Army declared him deceased as on December 31, 1953.
In 1954, an agreement was reached between the United Nations, North Korea, and China regarding the recovery and return of each side’s dead. The agreement was known as Operation GLORY. Kirtley was among the 416 sets of remains that could not be identified and so these remains were sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, for burial as “Unknowns”. One set designated as “X-15900 Operation GLORY” was among a group of remains that were unilaterally turned over, reportedly being recovered from isolated burial sites on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir.
On May 8, 2017, “X-15900 Operation GLORY” was disinterred and the remains sent to the laboratory to be identified. Cpl. DeMaret Marston Kirtley had been finally been found. Mitochondrial DNA analysis, dental and anthropological analysis were used to identify the remains.
Cpl. Marston Kirtley’s parents, Ura and Stella, and siblings Mary Kirtley Sherburne, Sydney Lawrence (SL), Locke, and Zaide Kirtley have all passed. He is survived by his nieces Zena Husman (Jon Teigland) and Karmen Kirtley (Ira Tropp), great nieces Suzanne (Dwyane) Krenzelok and Kari Husman (Darren Warner), and great-great nieces and nephews Piper, Beck, and Rowan who are all very proud to welcome him home.
Sixty-nine years after he served his country with honor and pride, Cpl. Kirtley will be returned to his home in Kaycee Wyoming. On June 27, 2019, his remains will arrive from Hawaii into Billings, Montana where he will be escorted from there to Kane Funeral Home in Sheridan, WY. Escorted by the Montana Freedom Riders, Montana Patriot Guard, Montana Vietnam Legacy Veterans, Montana Highway Patrol, to the Wyoming boarder. From there the Wyoming Freedom Riders, Wyoming Patriot Riders, Wyoming Vietnam Legacy Veterans, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Sheridan County’s Sheriffs Office and the Sheridan Police Department will escort to Kane’s. A Public visitation will be held on June 28, from 0945 to 1245, at the Kane Funeral Home in Sheridan. On June 29, he will then leave Kane Funeral Home at 0730 escorted by the public and above stated officials plus the Johnson County Sheriffs Office, Johnson County Police Department that will escort him to the gymnasium at the Harold Jarrard Park in Kaycee, WY. A Public viewing will be held at 0930. The memorial service will begin at 1000 with Chaplain Randy Sawyer officiating. Cpl. Kirtley will be laid to rest with his parents and other family members in the Kaycee Cemetery with full military honors. A reception will follow in the gymnasium.
Online condolences may be written at www.kanefuneral.com.
Kane Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements.