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California governor boosts support to combat vets

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced a new state initiative to better help returning combat veterans land jobs and get whatever assistance they need to secure housing, health care and other veterans' services.

The governor unveiled the Operation Welcome Home outreach campaign during his State of the State address Jan. 6, citing "a fundamental obligation to anyone who has shed or risked blood for this country."

The new program charges state agencies with providing better support for veterans.

"California has more returning veterans than any other state," he said. "So our state, as well as the federal government, has a special responsibility.

State officials plan to hire 325 combat veterans to make contact with recently discharged troops who need job assistance. Other plans call for recruiting 1,000 volunteers to help veterans cut through red tape so they can better tap into services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and state and municipal programs, as well as nongovernment organizations.

Sparked by his pre-Thanksgiving visit to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Governor Schwarzenegger said he felt compelled, despite the state's financial crisis, to find better ways to help troops returning from the combat theater transition to civilian life.

"They have seen and experienced some hard things," he said. "Many have served tour after tour after tour. As a result, some have lost homes, spouses, limbs and lives.

Too often," he continued, "our Soldiers bring back the enemy with them in their heads," noting cases of post-traumatic stress and suicides.

Governor Schwarzenegger acknowledged troops in uniform who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and attended the address, and thanked them for their service.

'To each of you, I say, 'Welcome home,'" he said.