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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert received both applause and a standing ovation Saturday morning when he signed HB275 into law, marking Mar. 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Utah.
On this same day 41 years ago, the last U.S. combat troops withdrew from Vietnam.
"I thank all of you," Herbert told the Vietnam veterans in attendance at the bill signing ceremony. "I know the service and sacrifice has been significant and the toll has been great. The benefits to us as a country are immeasurable."
His words of gratitude were followed by a remembrance ceremony outside the Capitol. Henry White, a retired Navy chief petty officer spoke about his service as a hospital corpsman with the Marines in 1969.
"My platoon started out, when I joined, as 52 members; 72 days later, there were 17 of us left," White said.
The new holiday has been a long time coming for White and others who served in the controversial war.
"(I) went through a lifetime, clear up to 9/11, of hiding my service in Vietnam because the way the country felt about us servicemen that served there," said veteran Ronald Velasquez.
"I'm glad to see we are at least a society that's trying to recognize the Vietnam veteran, trying to stand up and say: ‘Yes, you served with honor and we are proud of you,'" White said.
Both he and Velasquez say that's the message every veteran should get coming home.
"What we could do now for the ones coming home is help them get work. That's what they need, they need jobs," Velasquez said.
Nearly 28,000 men from Utah served in the Vietnam War; 50,000 now call Utah home.