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'National Priority' : Observances Put Focus on 2,500 MIAs

May 28, 1985|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The nation honored its war dead Monday with Memorial Day military pomp and pageantry, along with prayers and hope for the 2,500 persons still missing a decade after the end of the Vietnam War.

Army Secretary John O. Marsh Jr. promised at a ceremony near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to continue the push for a full accounting of those missing in action.

Marsh said that learning the fate of Vietnam MIAs is "a matter of the highest national priority."

A mile away, about 1,000 persons gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which has become one of the Mall's most heavily visited sites in the two years since it was dedicated.

Paul D. Wolfowitz, assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs, told the crowd that the effort to account for the MIAs "is an essential goal of American policy in Asia."

Behind Wolfowitz, the black granite wall that contains the names of the 58,000 dead and missing from the Vietnam War was awash in wreaths and flags.

Bush Addresses Crowd

Vice President George Bush and Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige addressed 1,000 persons in Kennebunkport, Me., near Bush's summer home.

Bush called America "a proud and an honest and a decent country," adding: "We have never sought territory or enslavement, and we have always fought for freedom--ours and the freedom of others."

In Boston Harbor, veterans were honored with a 21-gun salute fired from the Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship.

In Pennsylvania, small groups gathered at the Gettysburg National Cemetery, some carrying arrangements of red carnations and white chrysanthemums to place on veterans' graves.

Chicago's Mayor Harold Washington laid a wreath at the Veterans of War Eternal Flame in the Daley Center Plaza.

In Toms River, N. J., a contingent of Vietnam veterans got a rousing ovation from about 7,000 persons watching a parade along Main Street, said Dover Township Mayor Roden S. Lightbody.

'Didn't Stop Applauding'

"They didn't stop applauding from the time they were in eyesight to the time they were out of sight," Lightbody said.

In Portland, Ore., several celebrity members of the Church of Scientology put on a Memorial Day concert at the Veterans Administration Hospital, kicking off a second week of protests against a jury's $39-million fraud judgment.

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