Laos, Hmong Veterans' President Speaks at Memorial Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery
Statement of Cheurchai Vang, LVA
at the Laos Memorial
May 15, 2019
Members of Congress, Officials, Distinguished Guests, Veterans, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here today to honor and remember the many tens of thousands of Hmong and Lao soldiers, and their refugee families, as well as many of our American Advisors who sacrificed and served freedom's cause and the defense of their country and homelands. We are also here today to memorialize the 35,000 plus Lao and Hmong soldiers, and their American advisors, who were killed, and who paid the ultimate sacrifice, by giving their lives, while serving in the U.S. Secret Army in Laos. It is important to recall that Laotian and Hmong special forces who served in the U.S. Secret Army during the Vietnam War, were heroically organized and backed by the U.S. military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to defend the Royal Kingdom of Laos from a Soviet Russia-backed communist invasion by North Vietnam. Our special forces operated courageously and covertly in Laos during the conflict to combat invading, Soviet-backed, North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces and ruthless communist guerrillas.
I am proud to say that I am a Hmong veteran, I served during the U.S. Secret War in Laos from May 1967 to May 1975 under General Vang Pao, who was recruited by the U.S. Department of Defense and CIA.
During the Vietnam War in Laos, I had the rank of Lieutenant. I worked as a paymaster under General Vang Pao. I traveled to the battlefield to disburse monthly payments as salaries for the soldiers who were still in the front lines fighting to defend Laos from the invading NVA. This special assignment was supervising by Colonel Vang Neng, under the command of General Vang Pao, of the Second Regional Military office headquarters, at Long Cheng, Royal Kingdom of Laos.
Unfortunately, during my missions, I was captured by the NVA twice, who tortured and almost killed me. I was held captive for 9 days and nights. But, thankfully, I was able to escape, and barely survived. I am very lucky to be alive. It was a long story of pain, and I suffered terribly, throughout my captured. However, it is what now drives me today to promote and support democracy and freedom for all veterans here in America.
I am honored to serve as the President of the LVA which is a non-profit, non-partisan, veterans' organization that represents Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served in the U.S. clandestine war in the Royal Kingdom of Laos during the Vietnam War, as well as their refugee families in the United States. The LVA and the Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI) have chapters across the nation.
I would also like to recognize Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Lisa Murkowski (R-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Boozman (R-AR), Bernard Sanders (D-VT), and others, for their support of these ceremonies again. We also appreciate these U.S. Senators, and others, for cosponsoring the Lao "Hmong Veterans Service Recognition Act that President Donald Trump signed into law on March 23, 2018.
Our thanks to Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA), Paul Cook (R-CA), James Langevin (D-RI), Devin Nunes (R-CA), David Cicillini (D-RI) and other Members of Congress for spearheading the passage of this law and for cosponsoring our ceremonies.
Let me also thank: Roger Whitfield, National Association for Black Veterans; Green Beret Colonel Francis Levesque, U.S. Special Forces Association (U.S. SFA); General Victor Hugo, OSS Society and U.S. SFA. Thanks also to the Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), Katharine Kelley, for supporting and allowing to us to come and honor our soldiers, as well Micheal Migliara, and Warren Gene "Mac" McFarlin, of ANC.
Again, our thanks to Members of Congress for providing remarks and cosponsoring these events as well as the Lao Hmong Veterans Services Recognition Act. This law is crucial and important for our Hmong and Lao Veterans in the USA. We are grateful for the passage of this bill as it allows Hmong and Lao veterans, who were naturalized in the year 2000, and afterward, the opportunity to be buried and recognized equally among the ranks of their fallen U.S. veteran brother and sisters. We ask for your support to include not just naturalized citizens after the year 2000, but all Hmong and Lao veterans who served in the U.S. Secret Army on behalf of America in Laos. This needed technical correction language may, hopefully, be added by Congress, soon. As you know, without the support of the Lao Hmong veterans in combat, the U.S. would have lost thousands of additional soldiers, many more than the some 58,000 killed in Vietnam.
Again, thank you for coming today. I want to also give special thanks to Mr. Philip Smith. For Philip Smith, please give him a round of applause. We are blessed to have you as our National Liaison and are thankful for your leadership and your ability to establish a strong relationship between our veterans, and their families and communities, and the U.S. government, including the Senate and House of Representatives for the past 22 years, and more ! We are extremely grateful for you guiding all of us to where we are at today, and I am excited at where we can be in the future. I have no doubt that with our teamwork, we can overcome any obstacle and create more wonderful things and opportunities for our Asian-American veterans and communities.
I would like to conclude by saying that there is a sense of pride in the words "refugee" and "veterans" because our experience during the Vietnam War has made us who we are today. Now, as Hmong- and Lao-Americans, we are here in the USA not just to be good citizens, and good neighbors, but to contribute to building a stronger and brighter America. I would not change the hard experiences and the difficult fight that we all had to go through; Therefore, we must continue to defend this United States of America, even more so than when we did when we fought against Communist aggression in our past years of hardship, because this great Land, America, is and will be our final home. We are proud to stand, and to have stood, on the right side of history by helping America and our American soldiers.
Again, thank you for joining us at our memorial ceremonies at Arlington, the Vietnam War Memorial and Congress.
Center for Public Policy Analysis