Thirty-six years after the United States completed the pullout of combat troops from Vietnam, California is on the verge of officially welcoming them home.
Legislation to declare an annual "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" was passed by the Legislature this month, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign it.
Recognition by the nation's most populous state is expected to add momentum to campaigns nationwide to salute Vietnam veterans.
"It's not about the war," said Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley. "It's about the individuals who fought the war and paid the price."
Schools and state offices would not close on the special day of remembrance, but teachers would be encouraged to conduct "suitable commemorative exercises."
Similar legislation is pending to honor the late San Francisco gay rights activist Harvey Milk with the yearly recognition currently afforded to John Muir, teachers and the California golden poppy.
The American public was deeply split over the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 U.S. troops died and more than 300,000 were wounded.
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