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Inside Politics

Kerry marks Memorial Day at Wall

Vietnam veteran accompanies family of dead Marine

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Bush pays tribute to U.S. veterans during his Memorial Day address.
John F. Kerry
Memorial Day

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Monday, Memorial Day, with the family of a Marine whose 1976 death was being marked by his addition to the monument.

William Bronson, of Gardner, Massachusetts, suffered a head wound in Vietnam in 1968 and died of a grand mal seizure eight years later at age 27. Kerry, who represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, helped Bronson's family in their quest to have his name added to the memorial's list of dead.

"I'm very happy we could get this done," said Kerry, who has made his Vietnam background the centerpiece of his campaign biography.

"That name belongs up there."

Bronson's family brought their request to Kerry's attention in 1998, and he began working with the Navy Department to get

Bronson's name added to the wall. Kerry accompanied Bronson's mother, Barbara, and brothers, Robert and Ted, to the memorial Monday morning.

Wreath laying

The presumptive Democratic nominee joined the family in laying a wreath at the black granite panel that bears Bronson's name, and signed a rubbing of Bronson's name and a baby jumpsuit bearing the message "future president."

Kerry also shook hands with members of a tour group visiting the Vietnam memorial, with several wishing him luck in his presidential bid.

Kerry was a decorated Navy officer in Vietnam who became a prominent antiwar activist on returning home.

In a 1971 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he famously asked senators, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Angry words

But critics also have blasted Kerry for that testimony, in which he quoted returning troops who reported committing atrocities "with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."

Kerry recently said that his language was "over the top" and that he did not mean to cast aspersions on the soldiers with whom he served.

Monday, as he left the Vietnam memorial, a woman shouted at Kerry, asking him whether he was "paying tribute to all the people you spit on." Kerry did not respond.

President Bush marked the day with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.(Bush honors fallen soldiers)

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