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Ceremony marks lives shortened by Vietnam War

  • Story Highlights
  • Event honors those who die of causes thought related to Vietnam service
  • Agent Orange blamed for leading to deaths of some troops
  • 123 names added to "honor roll" Monday; list totals 1,874
  • Names are read each year near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
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From Paul Courson
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About a hundred family, friends and comrades turned out in a heavy rainstorm Monday to honor 123 Americans whose recent deaths they blame on the war in Vietnam.

Those honored aren't listed on the Vietnam Memorial because their deaths were not the result of direct combat.

About 100 friends and family attend the ceremony on Monday in Washington.

The event, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was a chance to "take the names of all the people who have died during the past years from Agent Orange, other diseases, other leukemias and skin cancers that they got from the actual war itself," said Howard Tilton, whose brother-in-law died of cancer linked with Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military in Vietnam.

"He remembers Agent Orange being all over him," said Theresa Tilton, whose brother Damian Wagasky died in 2007. She said he patrolled areas where the chemical was used to destroy the jungle canopy and reveal the enemy.

But because the health-related deaths were not from direct combat, most of those troops would not qualify to have their names engraved on the black granite wall of the memorial.

Reading their names aloud "recognizes those men and women who have died prematurely as a result of the Vietnam War," organizers said.

"This is a start, to remember them," said Howard Tilton. "But where's the names going to be, is there going to be another plaque?"

"How are we really going to remember their names, other than coming out here and reading them, because that right now is the only thing?" Tilton said.

A total of 1,874 names are listed on an "honor roll" of people whose deaths are linked with wartime health issues, as well as those killed in accidents in the war zone and civilians killed in combat. Next-of-kin apply for recognition of their lost loved ones.

This was the 11th annual "Memory Day" organized by Vietnam memorial founder Jan Scruggs. It coincides with Patriots Day, established in some states on the third Monday of April to mark the start of the Revolutionary War.

All About Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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