Death in the Mekong, Laos: Ceremonies in U.S. Senate, Arlington, Vietnam Memorial, Mark Exodus of Hmong, Lao People

WASHINGTON--()--Laotian- and Hmong-American veterans, who served during the Vietnam War in Laos, are conducting national memorial and policy events, including those at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), the Vietnam War Memorial and Congress, according to Philip Smith of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA). They are mourning the 40th anniversary of the exodus and mass killings of tens of thousands of Lao and Hmong refugees fleeing across the Mekong River in 1975-76, following the fall of Laos to invading North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces and communist Pathet Lao guerrillas. The somber, week-long events and ceremonies to honor the veterans are being held in Washington, D.C., Bryant University, New England, Alaska, Wisconsin and California.

The CPPA, Special Forces Association (SFA), and ANC Deputy Superintendent, Brion Moore, are providing remarks and participating in the Arlington and Washington events, as are U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Barbara Boxer (D-California), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). Congressmen Jim Costa (D-California), Devin Nunes (R-California), and David Cicillini (D-Rhode Island) are also participating.

“I am here to honor and thank the Lao and Hmong veterans and their refugee families,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, at Bryant, whose father was U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Laos.

“The sacrifices of the Lao and Hmong veterans during the Vietnam War were crucial,” proclaimed Senator Jack Reed.

“On May 11-12, Lao and Hmong veterans, and their refugee families from across America, arrived in Congress for meetings and special events,” said Philip Smith, Director of the CPPA.

“The Hmong 'Angels' troupe, from Minneapolis and St. Paul, performed honorary traditional dances at the U.S. Senate, Arlington National Cemetery and Vietnam War Memorial. Amy Vang, Miss Hmong America, 2016, spoke.

“These events help to educate U.S. Senators and Congress, and are generating additional support for the Lao 'Hmong Veterans' Service Recognition Act' (S. 1358/H.R. 2327), to honor the veterans, and somberly mark the tragic anniversary of the genocide and horrific exodus across the Mekong River, in 1975-76, during the fall of the Royal Kingdom of Laos.

“On May 13th, a special memorial wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Lao Veterans of America monument, in Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam War Memorial, with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), to remember and honor all those who sacrificed, fought, and died defending the Kingdom of Laos and U.S. national security interests during the Vietnam War.

“A solemn ceremony, and posting of the colors, was conducted in Arlington by a U.S. Armed Forces Joint Honor Guard, the 'Old Guard,' and an Army wreath-bearer, and bugler, who played 'Taps,' in sad remembrance of the fall of the Royal Kingdom of Laos to invading North Vietnamese Army forces, and the bloodbath and refugee exodus that followed across the Mekong River.

“The Arlington ceremony was conducted by the CPPA, Lao Veterans of America, Inc.(LVA), and the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI), and was cosponsored by the U.S. Congress, Arlington National Cemetery, the DOD, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps,” Smith concluded.

“On May 12-13, in a historic series of cultural dances performed at the U.S. Senate, Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam War Memorial, for the first time in the history of the Lao-Hmong people, the Hmong 'Angels' performed traditional dances at these important places in Washington to honor the veterans and remember those who died in Laos and the Mekong,” commented Pang Mang Thao, President, Minnesota LVA.

“I was honored to serve alongside Lao and Hmong forces in combat in Xieng Khouang and elsewhere in Laos,” said General Victor J. Hugo, Jr., (USA-Ret.), SFA.

“The Hmong and Laotian involvement in the Vietnam conflict was to help contain the spread of Soviet- backed communism in Southeast Asia and the region, and to interdict and disrupt military activities conducted by the NVA on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, ” stated Richard Xiong, President, LVAI.

“We come here to pay our respect for our Lao, Hmong, Khmu and Mien soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect the Kingdom of Laos during the Vietnam War,” said Chong Vang, son of General Vang Pao.

“I witnessed seeing North Vietnamese rockets blowing up before my eyes; We were among the lucky people that survived through the many close calls during the U.S. 'Secret War',” recounted Peter Vang, Executive Director of the Fresno, California-based LVA.

“These indigenous forces, fighting shoulder to shoulder with U.S. soldiers, conducted direct missions against the Communist forces and their North Vietnamese supporters; Hmong soldiers saved countless American lives,” stated Congressman Jim Costa.

“Serving at the U.S. Embassy in Laos I witnessed the Communist assaults on fleeing civilians which included automatic weapons fire as they desperately sought to swim across the Mekong. Subsequently, as an officer at the Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, I visited with and interviewed scores of these refugees about the horror they had faced in Laos. They told of aerial attacks on their mountain villages, including Communist use of chemical munitions...,” stated Edmund McWilliams, a U.S. Department of State officer.

“Thank you for your kind invitation to today's memorial service honoring Hmong Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery... to honor the Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War and their families as they commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the crossing of the Mekong River by tens of thousands of refugees fleeing genocide,” stated Senator Al Franken.

Remarks at Arlington include those by: Congress, Richard Xiong, LVAI; Philip Smith, CPPA; Pang Mang Thao, Minnesota LVA; Chong Vang; Peter Vang, LVAI; SFA Green Berets (U.S. Army-Ret.) General Victor J. Hugo, Jr., and Frank Levesque; Matthew Schroeder, USAF; Brion Moore, ANC; Mai Ka Thao, Hmong “Angels”; and, Amy Vang, Miss Hmong America 2016.

LVAI President Emeritus, Colonel Wangyee Vang, was honored.

Meetings in Congress continue.


Christy Her or Philip Smith