War museums return artifacts as organizer is called 'con artist'
NELSON, Neb. » Volunteers have returned most of the artifacts from two defunct war museums set up by a man who attempted to establish a similar institution in Hawaii several years ago.
Under a settlement announced by the state in February, the Korean War museum in Edgar and the Vietnam War museum in Nelson were to be dissolved and their assets returned to donors.
The museums were set up by Kyle Kopitke, 50, who was described by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning as a "professional con artist."
The National Korean War Museum was established in April 2005 in Oxford after being relocated from Hawaii. Later that year Kopitke moved the collection to Edgar, and opened the Vietnam War National Museum in Nelson in September 2005.
Chuck Tuttle, president of the Nelson City Council, is one of the volunteers helping return the war souvenirs. "For some of the stuff we've identified, we've been unable to contact the people who it belongs to," he said.
Tuttle said any items that aren't returned probably will end up in another museum.
Many of the donors said they were sorry to see the museums fall apart and donated money to help complete the returns.
Kopitke said Thursday that he would not comment beyond what he told the Hastings Tribune on Feb. 15. In that article Kopitke said: "Veterans came from around the nation to the only museum in the nation that taught that we won the Korean War and also the Vietnam War, and many veterans received emotional healing."