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“It’s very quietly closing the door on this chapter of our vigil,” Marjorie Waddell said in a phone interview last week about the news that the remains of her brother — Lt. Cmdr. Edward James Broms Jr., a pilot killed in action during the Vietnam War — have been positively identified.

In a recent report, based on a new analysis of Broms’ DNA, his identity was confirmed. Waddell said advanced DNA technologies available today made the discovery possible.

Broms was shot down over Vietnam on Aug. 1, 1968, but was listed as missing in action until 1975 when the government declared him dead, although his body had not been recovered.

In 1993, remains of missing Americans were found at a crash site in Vietnam; and in 1995, Broms’ mother, June Broms McCaskey, was notified that, based on evidence found at that scene, her son had been killed in action.

“I believed after reading the report that was what happened,” Waddell said.

However, positive identification of Broms’ remains was not announced until six weeks ago — on Sept. 12, 2011 — 36 years after his plane went down.

Years of support

“We are grateful for all those who wore his bracelet and kept vigil,” Waddell said, referring to personalized missing-in-action bracelets made with the names of those who never returned from American wars. Various individuals wore a Broms MIA bracelet over the years as a way to say they still remembered his sacrifice to his country.

Waddell said plans for a burial would be made at a later date.

Waddell and her husband, Charles, live in Asheville, N.C. They have a daughter, Elizabeth, and a son, 1st Lt. Andrew Waddell, who is serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and has just returned from a year’s tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Broms was a graduate of Meadville Area Senior High School where he was active in sports in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he was an honors graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1965, being commissioned as an ensign.

His plane went down in HaTink Province of North Vietnam, after flying from aboard the USS Intrepid in the Gulf of Tonkin. After he was declared dead in 1975, a memorial service was held. A headstone was erected in his memory at Roselawn Memorial Gardens in Vernon Township.

 

Shanley is retired from The Meadville Tribune.

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