Friday will be the first Vietnam Veterans Day in Alaska.
Gov. Sean Parnell has signed legislation designating March 29 of each year as a day to honor those who served in Vietnam. The law takes effect immediately.
The House Speaker’s chamber was packed Wednesday when the governor signed House Bill 67. He was joined by veterans of the Vietnam War, some of whom serve in the Legislature, including Senate President Charlie Huggins, whose voiced cracked when he said the bill was a way to welcome veterans home.
Fairbanks Rep. Steve Thompson introduced the bill and soon had the majority of legislators signing on. He explained the significance of March 29 at the bill signing.
“On March 29, 1973, all U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam, marking an end of the 10 years of United States military involvement. Upon their return, Vietnam veterans were not greeted with parades and triumph and speeches, such as the ones delivered at the end of the world wars. Instead, Vietnam veterans returned home to silence and in some cases abuse for having served their country during a controversial war.”
Nearly 60,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War.
Thompson said he carried the bill at the request of former state Rep. Bill Thomas of Haines, also a Vietnam vet. Thomas tried unsuccessfully to get a similar bill passed last year, then lost his bid for election to Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins of Sitka. Kreiss-Tomkins joined his House colleagues in sponsoring the bill.
Thomas was at Wednesday’s bill signing.