Costa Joined by Local Leaders and Veterans to Honor Hmong and Lao Veterans
Fresno, CA — Today Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) hosted a press conference in front of the Lao Hmong American War Memorial in Fresno County’s Courthouse Park as part of his ongoing efforts to honor Hmong and Lao American veterans. Rep. Costa was joined by Mr. Chi Neng Vang of the Special Guerrilla Units (SGU) Veterans – who is the youngest son of General Vang Pao – Executive Director Peter Vang of the Fresno chapter of Lao Veterans of America, and Hmong and Lao veterans from across California’s Central Valley to discuss the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act and its significance for the Hmong community. Costa introduced the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act into the U.S. House of Representatives on December 21, 2017, and the legislation would extend burial benefits to Hmong and Lao American veterans who served alongside U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.
“Many people across our country do not know about the brave Hmong and Lao men and women who risked their lives, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers during the Vietnam War,” said Rep. Costa, who has made honoring Hmong and Lao American veterans a priority over the course of his career in public service. “This is why, for years, I have been working with veterans organizations, other members of Congress, and local leaders to get these courageous Hmong and Lao men and women the recognition they deserve. These veterans deserve our nation’s deep gratitude and the choice of being laid to rest alongside their brothers-in-arms in our national cemeteries, such as San Joaquin National Cemetery in Santa Nella.”
During the Vietnam War, the CIA covertly trained Hmong men and women in Laos and then led them into direct combat in support of U.S. forces, an operation often referred to as “The Secret War.” Following the Vietnam War, thousands of Hmong veterans and their families resettled across the United States and in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Although there are only an estimated 5,000 Hmong veterans still alive, thousands live in the San Joaquin Valley.
Peter Vang, Executive Director of Lao Veterans of America, Fresno shared, “The (Hmong and Lao) veterans’ journey from war to the U.S. was not easy. We feel obligated to get them th[is] benefit because they tell us, ‘I want to make sure I will be honored at an American Military Cemetery and show my children I fought with American soldiers.”
The Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act has bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In addition, both the national and San Joaquin Valley chapters of the Special Guerrilla Units (SGU) Veterans & Families Development organization and Lao Veterans of America endorse the legislation.