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Act of Congress Makes This First National Vietnam War Veterans Day

Released prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., as he returns home from the Vietnam War on March 17, 1973. (AP Photo/Sal Veder)

WASHINGTON — The United States now officially, permanently, has a day to recognize the sacrifices of those who fought during the Vietnam war: National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

On Tuesday, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 to “encourage the display of the flag of the United States” today.

The bill’s sponsors, Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), designated today as the day of recognition as the last combat troops were ordered out of Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

The bill passed by voice vote in the House and with unanimous consent in the Senate.

“With this bipartisan bill signed into law, we can finally give our Vietnam veterans the additional recognition they deserve,” Donnelly said. “These Americans sacrificed to protect our country – they are our family, friends, and neighbors, and it is important to honor and remember their patriotism, service, and sacrifice.”

In a statement with Donnelly, Toomey noted that “in many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they earned when they came home.”

“Thankfully, in the years following the Vietnam War, people and organizations across the country took it upon themselves to right this wrong by honoring the sacrifice and dedication to service our Vietnam veterans displayed,” he said. “Permanently designating March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day is a small, yet significant step, in these efforts.”

Previously, the day had been recognized by presidential proclamations from the 1970s through the last administration.

In 1974, President Nixon recognized today as Vietnam Veterans Day “to remember that the honorable peace America achieved came through great sacrifice.”

“Those who served, those who gave their lives, those who were disabled, and those who are still missing in Southeast Asia–and whose full accounting we shall continue to seek–deserve the profound gratitude of their countrymen,” Nixon added.

Earlier this month, the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association decided to accept Arlington National Cemetery’s proposal for a monument honoring nearly 5,000 helicopter pilots and crew members killed in action, a request that was originally denied by the Army secretary in 2015.