Laos, Hmong Veterans Honored At National Ceremonies
Laos, Hmong Veterans Honored At National Ceremonies
May 14, 2012, Washington, D.C., Arlington, Virginia, and Fresno, California
National memorial and wreath-laying ceremonies are being held in Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Congress, to honor Lao and Hmong veterans of the “U.S. Secret Army” in Laos, their American clandestine advisors, and their refugee families in the United States and Southeast Asia.
“Today, we have come from across the United States to pay tribute and remember our fallen soldiers who have died to secure the freedom that we all enjoy today,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President of the Lao Veterans of America Institute, headquartered in Fresno, California.
“It is also important to remember that our people, who were left behind in the jungles of Laos, are still suffering from the causes of the Vietnam War,” Colonel Vang commented further.
National veterans and commemorative events are continuing on Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C., today.
On Friday, May 11, a special wreath-laying ceremony and memorial service was conducted at the Lao Veterans of America monument at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I am very honored and pleased that we are once again gathered here today at Arlington National Cemetery, as we first did in 1997, at this monument and tree that are dedicated to the Lao and Hmong veterans and their American advisors,” said Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Laos and Hmong scholar.
“This is a sacred and solemn place where we are gathered to help honor the Lao and Hmong veterans and their families at Arlington National Cemetery,” stated Dr. Hamilton-Merritt who is a historian, journalist and author of the book “Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans and the Secret Wars for Laos.”
“As part of the annual commemoration of the Lao and Hmong Veterans National Recognition Day Ceremonies, we are gathered to place flowers at the apex of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” Dr. Hamilton-Merritt concluded.
Flowers were laid at the Vietnam War Memorial on Saturday, May 12, 2012, at 11:30 A.M., to honor and remember the Lao and Hmong veterans and their refugee families who served in Laos during the Vietnam War and its aftermath.
“A U.S. Department of Defense Joint Armed Forces Honor Guard, U.S. Army wreath-bearer, and bugler, participated in the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to assist in honoring the Lao and Hmong veterans,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. –based Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA). http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org
Smith continued: “Following the official wreath-laying ceremony at the Lao Veterans of America memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Department of Defense’s honor guard also posted colors, and the bugler played ‘Taps', in memory of the Lao and Hmong veterans and their American military and clandestine advisors, who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.”
“Lao and Hmong special forces who served in combat in Laos during the Vietnam War were backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Army Special Forces, operating in a largely covert fashion in defense of the Kingdom of Laos during the conflict,” Smith stated.
“We are grateful to Arlington National Cemetery, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army and Members of Congress, for their efforts in support of the national memorial ceremonies to honor Lao and Hmong veterans and their American advisors,” Smith commented.
Participants and speakers at the ceremonies are highlighting the importance of pending legislation introduced by U.S. Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA), and Frank Wolf (R-VA), to grant burial benefits at U.S national veterans’ cemeteries to Lao and Hmong veterans. Meetings and policy events are also being held in the U.S. Congress regarding issues of concern, including H.R. 3192, the Lao Hmong Veterans Burial Benefits Act.
Cosponsors of the events include the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI), the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), the U.S. Department of Defense, Arlington National Cemetery, U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, Inc., and Members of the U.S. Congress.
Keynote speakers, and those providing statements at the veterans memorial events, include: Colonel Wangyee Vang, LVAI; Philip Smith, Executive Director, CPPA; Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Southeast Asian scholar; Mike Benge, former POW/MIA and Counterparts Veterans’ Association member; Hugh Tovar, Former CIA Station Chief, Laos; Toua Kue, Former Royal Lao Army officer, Lao Veterans of America, Inc.; D. L. Hicks, U.S. Special Forces Association, Texas; Christy Lee, Hmong Advance, Inc.; Members of the U.S. Congress: and, Congressional staff.
Laotian and Hmong veterans and their families from Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Alabama, and other states, are participating in the national veterans’ memorial and policy events.
The events also mark Lao and Hmong Veterans National Recognition Day ceremonies held in May of each year by the Laotian and Hmong community across the United States and in Washington, D.C.