Former Susanville resident celebrates special day
|Gil Calac, right, a former Susanville resident who is now the leader of the Yakima Warriors Association and a Vietnam veteran, and Representative Norm Johnson, left, watch as Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs House Bill 1319 into law.||Representative Norm Johnson stands at the inscribed wall of the Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Capitol campus in Olympia, looking for the name of his cousin, who died during the Vietnam War. House Bill 1319, recently signed into law, designates March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Photos by the Washington House of Representatives|
April 9, 2013 — A former Susanville resident stood beside Washington Governor Jay Inslee as he signed a bill designating March 30 each year as ‘Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans’ to honor Vietnam veterans in the state of Washington.
California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. also issued a similar proclamation declaring Saturday, March 30, 2013 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in the state of California.
Amid a conference room in the Washington state capitol filled with reporters, photographers, legislators and Vietnam veterans, Inslee signed a bill that designates March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in Washington state.
Norm Johnson, the representative who sponsored the bill, said more than 1,100 service men and women from Washington died in the Vietnam War, including his cousin. He noted that those who survived and returned home were not treated kindly.
“They were called war mongers and baby killers and were spat upon and scorned. This was possibly the cruelest aspect of the Vietnam War,” said Johnson.
House Bill 1319 would not create a legal holiday, but an annual day of recognition for Washington’s Vietnam veterans, in which all public entities in the state would be required to fly the National League of Families POW/MIA (prisoner of war/missing in action) flag on March 30.
“All of those veterans are people that we’ve had in our hearts and minds for decades, and now Washington state is officially proclaiming a day of celebration to welcome them home officially,” said Inslee. “It is a day that we hope people will take a moment to think of these men and women who served and didn’t get the warmest welcome in the years that they came back. But now we want to double the warmth of welcoming them and thinking of their contribution to American democracy and freedom across the world.”
Johnson said the Yakima Warriors Association suggested the measure to him, which is a group of 190 members who make sure veterans are not forgotten. The association’s representative, Gil Capac of White Swan, a former Susanville resident, is a Vietnam veteran who returned home from the war 43 years ago.
“When I came home, it was just emptiness,” said Capac. “This day of recognition is important for all Vietnam veterans for closure. It was important for them to come home and have someone recognize them. This will help the healing when we all get together, and we know that the state of Washington recognized us as Vietnam veterans and gave us a chance to pull together as one.”
Johnson said the day of recognition and the resolutions are a small way to give back to those who answered the call of service for their country, but were never given a hero’s welcome for their sacrifice.
“We can never totally heal the scars that were left when those boys and girls came home,” said Johnson. “It’s long overdue that we say, ‘Thank you for your service, welcome home and God bless you!’”
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