MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
When many service members returned home after fighting in Vietnam, they arrived to a nation and people whose mood was much different than that of their forefathers, who were welcomed home with open arms after fighting valiantly in World War II and Korea.
A large number of people were opposed to the war in Vietnam, and many took their aggression out on the troops who served there. Archived news accounts show service members being belittled and spat on, and many commentators wrote that Vietnam veterans largely abandoned by the nation in their time of medical and economic need.
Last week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into state law which takes a step in the right direction – welcoming home the state’s thousands of Vietnam veterans.
Assembly Bill 717, authored by Assemblyman Paul Cook, of California’s 65th District based in Yucca Valley, a retired Marine colonel and a Vietnam veteran, at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field here Sept. 25. The bill declares March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in the state of California.
“The governor’s support of AB 717 is a monumental step in the struggle to help Vietnam veterans heal some of the mental wounds that were inflicted when they returned home and found their country politically divided,” Cook said. “Although the honor is long overdue, I’m glad that I can still draw attention to the importance of remembering the sacrifices of these brave men and women.”
The day was chosen by the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Organization because it marks the anniversary of the U.S. forces’ complete troop withdrawal from Vietnam, said Jose G. Ramos, the founder of the organization.
Ramos, a Whittier, Calif., native said he originally began what he thought was a small idea in his hometown in April 2000 as a basic gesture to honor his fellow veterans. The following year, Whittier passed the resolution, so Ramos began to branch out.
Shortly before signing the bill, Schwarzenegger said, “Our Vietnam veterans fought for our freedoms, kept America safe and dedicated their lives to this nation. We are forever thankful for their unwavering strength and courage while fighting in the Vietnam War. By signing this legislation we join together to express our gratitude, remember their service and say ‘welcome home.’”
California is the first state in the U.S. to establish an annual holiday of this nature. Cook and Ramos said they plan to bring the bill to national attention and hopefully make “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” an official federal holiday. For more information about the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Organization or AB 717, log on to http:// www.whvvd.org.