Michigan House Republicans
House approves Rep. Markkanen’s plan to honor a fallen World War II veteran
RELEASE|May 15, 2024

State Rep. Greg Markkanen on Wednesday secured passage of his plan to name a section of M-26 in Houghton County as the Private Wesley Karna Memorial Highway. House Bill 5462 passed with unanimous support.

Karna was born in 1922 in Painesdale, Michigan, as one of nine children born to his parents Erick and Ida, both Finnish immigrants. He served in the Fifth Army, 91st Infantry, 362nd Regiment, F Company during World War II.

On Sept. 22, 1944, Karna was fighting in northern Italy against the Gothic Line, an enemy force made up of German and Italian forces, when he was killed in action. Karna earned a Purple Heart, a WWII Victory medal, and a European Theatre medal for his service.

“Private Karna was 22 when he was killed in action. He laid down his life and sacrificed his future serving our country,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock. “Instead of living the American Dream of buying a house, getting married, and having children, Private Karna deployed overseas with the US Army. Brave servicemen like him brought the torch of liberty to the shores of a Western Europe engulfed by a totalitarian regime. Because men like Private Karna were willing to sacrifice everything, the mainland United States hasn’t seen war since the 1800’s. Renaming this portion of highway allows us to return a small piece of legacy to this American hero from the U.P.”

Markkanen’s plan first passed the House Transportation Committee Tuesday. Brad Uren, Karna’s great-nephew, testified with Markkanen during the committee meeting where they outlined how an Italian historian with a metal detector recently unearthed Private Karna’s canteen. It had been buried 80 years ago. Private Karna had scratched his name into it. That discovery led Uren and his family to find further details about Private Karna’s service and the circumstances surrounding his ultimate sacrifice.

Having been supported by the village, county, and State House of Representatives, HB 5462 now moves to the State Senate for further consideration. Transportation Committee testimony discussing the bill can be found here, beginning at timestamp 25:10.


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