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Belated Memorial Day salute

By THOMAS FERRARO

WASHINGTON -- Almost two decades after they were killed in the Vietnam War, 110 American soldiers are finally being officially recognized as among the nation's combat casualties this Memorial Day.

More than 400 members of their families were to gather today for a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where their names are freshly etched on a 496-foot black granite wall beside 58,022 previously honored comrades.

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'They all deserve to be there,' said Leo Broadhead, of Piedmont, Okla. He is the father of Air Force Lt. Larry Broadhead, one of the new additions, and the man who helped lead the fight to honor them.

Larry Broadhead and 96 others had been initially left off the wall - and a place in history -- because they were killed outside the official U.S. 'combat zone' and thus were not considered war dead.

The other 13 had been ignored because the Pentagon, as result of processing oversights, did not realize they died of combat wounds after leaving Southeast Asia.

This spring, the names were added to the wall after the government learned of the 13 and revised its definition of war casualities to include those killed in support of a combat mission or while going to or from one.

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Today's belated salute was to include a roll call of the 110 new names.

Larry Broadhead and four fellow airman were killed on May 10, 1969, when their B-52 plane exploded shortly after take-off from Guam while en route to a bombing mission over Vietnam.

The elder Broadhead, a retired Air Force officer who flew 300 combat missions in Vietnam, including a few with his son, drummed up widespread support to have the names of all those killed in such circumstances added to the wall.

Earlier this spring, Broadhead came to Washington to see his son's name.

'It brought back a lot of memories,' he said. 'We had a very special relationship. Just standing there, also brought back a lot of hurt.'

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day 1982 during a belated 'Welcome Home' to the more than 3 million men and women who served in America's longest war.

The memorial was built with funds raised by the veterans themselves and later turned over to the government.

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