Monumental General Vang Pao Monument By Celebrated Sculptor Dedicated In Stockton
Internationally known Public and National Monument sculptor, Paula Slater, was commissioned by the GVP Monument Committee to create a ten foot high bronze portrait of the famous Hmong General Vang Pao.
"My life and my energy I have absolutely given to the Hmong 100 percent!" - quote from General Vang Pao
Slater says it has been her great honor being chosen for the General Vang Pao Monument commission. "I always do a tremendous amount of research before I begin working on a monument project, and after I had read about GVP I had a very vivid and powerful dream in which the General held out his right hand and said to his people, 'Come with me to a free land.'"
She awoke with tears in her eyes, says Slater, and phoned her client, Dr. Cheuyengther Xiong, chairman of GVP Monument Committee, to share her dream and that this monument's design needed to encompass the whole of GVP's life, not just his military career. It needed to include his decades of civil service to the Hmong people, which enabled him to become known as "the Father of the Hmong people". This would take more than just a bronze portrait of the General, it would need to also tell the story in words and sculpted images of his long and amazing life, Slater explained. She then continued, "Dr. Xiong understood immediately and supported my vision to sculpt GVP in his latter years wearing a suit as he often did, rather than as a young man in uniform. We worked very closely on this project and Dr. Xiong also had many profound ideas including the addition of 'The Cost of Freedom' granite wall. It is our prayer that this historic Monument not only be a place of information about GVP and the amazing bravery and sacrifice of the Hmong people, but also a place in which to help heal the loss and wounds of the past, and to inspire the viewer's mind and imagination forward into the opportunities of this 'free land'."
When asked why she sculpted the General holding a book in his left hand, she explained her clients requested it because throughout his life, GVP promoted the building of schools and was a great advocate of education. "He believed that the Hmong were very intelligent people but would need a good education to succeed in life. My clients asked that I sculpt the words he often spoke to his people for the title of the book he is holding, 'Education is the Key; Knowledge is Power'."
Three huge four-foot by four-foot bronze relief panels are installed on the six-foot tall 17,000-pound granite base beneath the monumental bronze portrait of the General. They tell the story of GVP and the Hmong people who did so much for the United States during the Vietnam War; sacrificing more than thirty-five thousand Hmong soldier's lives to save our downed pilots in Laos, providing intelligence and disrupting the flow of weapons and supplies to Vietnam. They are the unknown heroes who worked secretly with the CIA to save countless American lives. The bronze panels also incorporate GVP's life after the Vietnam War when he resettled in the United States and worked tirelessly setting up organizations that would benefit the Hmong, even meeting with President Nixon and President Ford on behalf of the Hmong people and Hmong Veterans.
It is evident that this Monument was a labor of love for the sculptor as she included so much fine detailing, not only on the monumental statue of GVP but also on the bronze relief panel portraits, down to the buttons, badges and braids. Slater passionately states, "This is a tremendously important Monument to the brave Hmong people and their heroic leader. They deserve a world class Monument and our undying gratitude!"
'THE COST OF FREEDOM' wall behind the statue also stands to inform the world of the huge sacrifices of the Hmong during the Vietnam War and the on-going present day persecution and genocide of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos by the communist leaders because the Hmong aided the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Slater says she knew nothing about the CIA covert war in Laos before she started researching the GVP Monument project and that it broke her heart to learn of the atrocities that have gone on since the end of the Vietnam War against the Hmong people in Laos. "Most Americans don't know anything about this 'secret war', they don't know about the suffering and the sacrifice. I went to college in the early 70s and am well read, but like more than 300 million Americans I did not know this tragic history. It is our dearest wish and prayer that this Monument helps to bring this information out to the world."
Slater goes on to say, "This Monument is dedicated not only to General Vang Pao, but also to those who gave their lives fighting by his side, it is for all the families who were displaced and torn apart, it is for those who were left behind and the tens of thousands of souls who did not make it out alive as they fled their homes trying to escape the onslaught of advancing communist soldiers. This was 'The Cost of Freedom' and their sacrifice must never be forgotten."
Paula B. Slater, M.A.
Paula Slater Sculpture