President Carter yesterday signed a resolution authorizing a two-acre site for the nation's first Vietnam memorial, saying it will symbolize the healing of a nation deeply divided over the war.

"A long and painful process has brought us to this moment today," Carter said during a Rose Garden ceremony. "Our nation as you know was divided and in the process we ignored those who answered our nation's call."

Meanwhile, the Veterans Administrations released a survey showing the public backs more government aid for Vietnam-era veterans, but the veterans themselves think they are less appreciated than those who served in earlier combats.

The memorial will be a "reminder of the past, what was lost and a reminder of what we learned," Carter said. "We do not honor war, but we honor the peace and freedom they sought."

The resolution, which had the Senate's unanimous support, authorized construction of a memorial in Constitution Gardens, not far from the Lincoln Memorial Private donations will raise the $2.5 million needed to build the memorial.

"This memorial will say to all Vietnam veterans this nation cares and remembers," said Veterans Administrator Max Cleland, who lost both legs in the war.

Cleland's office earlier released a survey showing 66 percent of the public thinks the federal government should do more for Vietnam-era veterans, and most say they feel positively toward veterans of the unpopular war.

"The public is finally separating the war from the warrior," Cleland said.

But only 47 percent of Vietnam-era veterans said they got a friendly reception from family and friends, compared to 73 percent of World War II and Korean War veterans.

The survey, conducted at a cost of $485,000 by Louis Harris Associates between November 1979 and March among 7,000 people nationwide, found 91 percent of the veterans were glad to have served their country, and two-thirds would do it again.

"They have continued to keep faith with their country even when their country has not at all times kept faith with them," Cleland said.