Monday, August 20, 2018

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Hmong Veteran Gets Full Military Honors

Bla Pao Yang is a Hmong veteran who fought in the secret war in Laos. After the war, he and his family settled in Rochester, MN. He is a Hmong American hero who has been fighting for the right to be recognized similar to U.S. veterans.

On Monday, he became the first Hmong veteran in Rochester to be accorded full military honors at his funeral. This is in part due to the congressional bill this year that allows Hmong veterans that fought in the secret war the same honors as U.S. veterans.

The secret war in Laos was not so much of a secret for Laotians at all. The war was fought between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government. Both parties had support from outside. The Pathet Lao also had support from northern Vietnam. The U.S. supported the Royal Lao Government.

Within a 9 year span from 1964 to 1973, the U.S. conducted more than 580,000 bombing missions. This translates to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. A third of these bombs did not explode and has left Laos contaminated with vast quantities of unexploaded ordinance. Many Hmongs, especially children, have died due to encountering these bombs and having them explode in the wild.

The CIA recruited General Vang Pao, along with Bla Pao Yang and many other Hmongs to fight the secret war in Laos. The Hmongs helped U.S. soldiers traverse the harsh and rugged Laos landscape and also recovered downed U.S. soldiers in conflict.

After the U.S. pulled out of the war, the Pathet Lao took over and many refugees fled the country. Hmong veterans who fought in the war brought their families to settle in France, Australia, and mostly in the U.S.

Now as Hmong Americans, those that fought in the war have been wanting to get recognized as equals to U.S. veterans. Bla Pao Yang’s fight to get this right has finally been made possible as he was laid to rest.

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