WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--National veterans’ memorial ceremonies and public policy events were concluded today in Washington, D.C., by the Laotian and Hmong-American community.
“This is the 35th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War; we are here in Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery as well as the U.S. Congress to pay tribute to our fallen soldiers who shed their blood and lives for today’s freedom in the world, and to honor our surviving veterans and their families as they continue to struggle in their day-to-day’s life,” said Colonel Wangyee Vang, President, of the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI).
On Memorial Day, flowers were laid at the Marine Corps, Air Force and John F. Kennedy Memorials in Arlington on behalf of the Lao and Hmong community and its veterans.
Meetings on Capitol Hill concluded today.
Colonel Vang commented: “…We came to America as political refugees and now, just as the US Congress has passed the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act of 2000, previously, all of our Lao Hmong veterans who came in the 1980s and 1990s are American citizens. Today, we would like to appeal to our policymakers to award veterans benefits for the Hmong and Lao veterans who have fought on behalf of the American people in Laos during the Vietnam War.”
Events were launched on Capitol Hill on May 12-13 by the LVAI, Lao Veterans of America, Inc. (LVA) and the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in cooperation with Members of Congress. A U.S. Congressional policy briefing and conference on issues of concern to Laotian and Hmong veterans, and their refugee families in America, Thailand, and Laos, was held in the House of Representatives.
On May 14, in Arlington National Cemetery, the organizations hosted memorial events and a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Laotian and Hmong veterans and their American advisers on the 35th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in Laos. A U.S. Department of Defense Color Guard, Army wreath-bearer and bugler participated in the events held at the LVA and Lao-Hmong veterans’ monument.
“… I have the greatest regard for the Lao and Hmong veterans, and I cherish the memory of the years, we served together as comrades in arms against a common enemy,” stated Hugh Tovar, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief in Laos.
“…Hmong veterans could not be included on the Wall naming the Americans who died in Vietnam,” said John Barnum, Esq., who played a key role in the establishment of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. “But they are celebrated here in Arlington Cemetery, where America buries its war dead. They earned their place in this American cemetery,”
“We honor the Lao and Hmong veterans, and their American advisers, who sacrificed and served in defending the Royal Kingdom of Laos and Thailand as well as U.S. national security interests during the Vietnam War,” said Philip Smith, Director, of the Washington, D.C.-based CPPA.
“This ceremony is an important remembering, a celebration and a tribute to a time when U.S. and Lao and Hmong soldiers fought a common adversary as brothers,” stated Edmund McWilliams, a Foreign Service officer (U.S.FSO-Ret.) who served in the U.S. Embassies in Bangkok and Vientiane.
“…No commemoration of that struggle could be complete without acknowledgement of the sacrifice of families of those fighters. In particular we recall that the enemy brought the fight to civilian communities, especially to Hmong villagers in Laos who suffered terrible abuse at the hands of the Vietnamese troops and their communist Lao allies.
”As we gather here today to honor the veterans who sacrificed so much, we also honor the civilians who bore grave burdens in that long, heroic struggle. In particular our minds and hearts turn to those who still suffer grievously at the hands of the Vietnamese and Lao forces who continue to target and persecute the Hmong, Lao and Montagnard people whose association with U.S. forces over three decades ago leaves the indelible mark of ‘enemy’…
“As we remember and mark the sacrifice of all veterans of the struggle in Indochina and their families we also make a solemn pledge: We will not forget that a struggle for justice continues here in the U.S. where we seek provision of appropriate benefits for all veterans of that conflict…,” McWilliams stated.
Speakers at Arlington National Cemetery included Colonel Wangyee Vang, LVAI; Philip Smith, CPPA; Grant McClure, Counterparts; John Barnum, Esquire; Michael Benge, former POW/MIA; and others.
Cosponsors and participants on May 14 included the LVAI, CPPA, LVA, Counterparts, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, Inc., Arlington National Cemetery, U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Defense and Members of Congress. The ceremonies marked May 14-15, National Lao Hmong Recognition Day and Armed Services Day.