FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – The state of California declared Hmong Veterans Day an official holiday in 2004, and since then Hmong Veterans have been fighting to receive the same benefits as United States war veterans after serving alongside the United States Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s.
On May 15, 1975 surviving Hmong soldiers and their families were forced to flee Laos to avoid persecution for aiding American soldiers in the Vietnam War.
The Hmong people in Laos were recruited and trained to fight alongside the U.S. military against the communists during the Vietnam War. Cheng Yang is a teacher at Edison High School and teaches students about Hmong culture in class.
“May 15 reminds us that thousands of Hmong lives were lost so a few hundred US pilots may return home,” says Yang.
Cheurchai Vang currently serves as the president of Lao Veterans of America in Fresno which also serves as the organization’s headquarters nationwide. Vang served as a lieutenant in the Secret War led by Major General Vang Pao.
With the passage of the Hmong veterans naturalization act, honorary American citizenship was granted to thousands of Hmong veterans and their families in the United States. However, they do not receive the same benefits and government programs available to U.S. veterans.
Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), re-introduced H.R. 2969, the Special Guerrilla Units (SGU) Service Recognition Expansion Act, bipartisan legislation that expands eligibility for burial in national cemeteries all Hmong veterans.