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Hmong veterans of CIA’s war in Laos honored at California Capitol

 

Surviving Hmong veterans of the CIA’s Secret War in Laos will receive medals at 5 p.m. Monday at a ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol. The event is being hosted by Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Ly, himself a survivor of the conflict. The former school board member fought for the inclusion of the Secret War in secondary education. The Elk Grove Unified School District has created a blog with oral histories from participants in the war at http://blogs.egusd.net/tor/interviews/vietnam-war/

Ly will be joined by state Assemblyman Jim Cooper and several U.S. veterans who served with the Hmong guerrillas, who fought for 15 years at a salary of $1.50 or $2 per month. An estimated 35,000 Hmong soldiers died battling the Pathet Lao and the Vietnamese regular army during the Vietnam War and the Secret War in Laos. An estimated 6,000 survive, and there have been efforts in Congress to get them veterans benefits and have them buried in U.S. military cemeteries. There are an estimated 27,000 Hmong refugees and their children in Sacramento and another 40,000 in the Fresno area.

On Tuesday May 17, PBS World will air “Operation Popcorn,” a documentary about the 10 Hmong veterans – including legendary general Vang Pao and retired U.S. veteran Harrison Jack – charged with plotting to overthrow the communist government of Laos. All but one were exonerated, but they continued to advocate for several thousand Hmong guerillas thought to be hiding in the jungles of Laos from Lao communist troops. The film – much of which takes place in northern California – can be found at http://worldchannel.org/programs/episode/arf-s4-e415-operation-popcorn/

Stephen Magagnini: 916-321-1072, @SteveMagagnini

Ceremony honoring Hmong veterans

When: Monday, May 16: 3 p.m., veterans assemble, 4 p.m., U.S. Air Force Band, 5 p.m., program begins, 6:30 p.m. Candlelight vigil at Vietnam Memorial

Where: West Steps of the Capitol

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