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Veterans remember soldiers killed in Pershing explosion at Waldheide

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 9, 2015

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A group of U.S. military veterans will hold an annual remembrance ceremony Sunday for three soldiers killed at a former U.S. military base in Germany during the Cold War.

Sgt. Todd A. Zephier of Wagner, S.D.; Staff Sgt. John Everett D. Leach, of Salem, Mo.; and Pfc. Darryl Shirley of Irving, Texas, died when the solid-fuel motor of an unarmed Pershing 2 missile caught fire and burned at the former Waldheide Base near Heilbronn in 1985, according to a report on the incident in The New York Times.

Larry Nichols, a former soldier who’s lived in Germany since 1972, said veterans in the Heilbronn area have held the annual ceremony for many years.

“The military is slowly but surely forgetting the sacrifice that our soldiers have made here,” he said. “We keep this alive.”

This year’s event begins at 2 p.m. at the Fort Red Leg Memorial site at Waldheide.

Two monuments mark the site: a stone memorial placed by the city years ago and a concrete bunker with a brass plaque put up by Nichols’ group, the International Veterans Association, in 2013.

Guests include the Heilbronn mayor, a U.S. Honor Guard team from Stuttgart, and other U.S. and German military members and local citizens.

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