By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Schwarzenegger unveiled the Operation Welcome Home outreach campaign during his State of the State address in Sacramento, 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. So our state, as well as the federal government, has a special responsibility," he said. "We have a fundamental obligation to anyone who has shed or risked blood for this country."
The state plans to hire 325 combat veterans to make contact with recently discharged troops in need of 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 non-government organizations.
Sparked by his pre-Thanksgiving visit to Camp Victory in Baghdad, 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. Many have served tour after tour after tour. As a result, some have lost homes, spouses, limbs and lives," he said. "Too often our soldiers bring back the enemy with them in their heads," noting cases of post-traumatic stress and suicides.
Schwarzenegger acknowledged troops in uniform who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and attended today's address, and thanked them for their service.
'To each of you, I say, 'Welcome home,'" he said.