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Section of PCH Dedicated to Vietnam Veterans

Memorials: A ceremony designates the county's section of the road to honor those who served.

July 28, 2001|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The four-year dream of a Vietnam veteran to dedicate a Los Angeles highway to those who fought in the Vietnam War became reality Friday in a colorful ceremony along Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance.

Jerry Yamamoto, chairman of the Redondo Beach Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, was traveling in Ohio when he first saw a highway that was designated a Vietnam War memorial.

Yamamoto enlisted Assemblyman George Nakano (D-Torrance) to write the necessary state legislation, which was passed last year, authorizing four 9-by-5-foot signs along Pacific Coast Highway from the Ventura County line to Long Beach.

Finally, Friday, about 250 veterans and supporters from throughout the area and elsewhere in the country attended the dedication ceremony.

Vincent Okamoto, a decorated airborne ranger during the war and now a Torrance attorney, gave the keynote speech.

He called the event "one of the few times Vietnam veterans have come together to show themselves in a positive light."

"For too long, we have been portrayed as unproductive persons who were never able to adjust to life," he said. "But we made as many sacrifices as veterans of World War II, and we have adjusted.

"This is a real celebration for us," Okamoto said. The Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway "means a lot as a tangible symbol acknowledging our services 30 years ago."

The event was attended by color guards of Vietnam veterans from Santa Clarita and Long Beach as well as the Redondo Beach High School Junior ROTC and the Torrance police. An Army band played, and there were fly-bys by aircraft from the California National Guard and the Coast Guard.

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