The Laos and Hmong Memorial, or Lao Veterans of America Monument, is a granite monument, bronze plaque and living memorial (that includes an Atlas Cedar tree) in Arlington National Cemetery. Dedicated in May 1997, it is located in Section 2 on Grant Avenue between the path to the JFK memorial and the Tomb of the Unknowns, in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, in the United States. The Laos–Hmong memorial commemorates the veterans of the "Secret War" in Laos who fought against invading Soviet Union-backed North Vietnam Army forces of the People's Army of Vietnam and communist Pathet Lao guerrillas. Approved by the U.S. Department of Defense, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Department of the Army, but designed and paid for privately by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., the Lao Veterans of America Institute, and The Centre for Public Policy Analysis, the memorial stands as a tribute to the Hmong, Lao, other ethnic groups (Lao, Khmu, Mien, Lahu), and American clandestine and military advisers who made up the Secret War effort during the Vietnam War. The Lao Veterans of America, Inc. is the nation's largest ethnic Laotian- and Hmong-American veterans organization.
The Laos and Hmong Memorial was dedicated on May 14–15, 1997, by Colonel Wangyee Vang, National President and founder, of the Lao Veterans of America Institute, Philip Smith of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, The Centre for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), and the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., and Grant McClure of Counterparts Veterans Association, as well as others, in an official Arlington National Cemetery veterans' ceremony attended by tens of thousands. Those attending and participating included Laotian and Hmong-American war veterans, Vietnam veterans, Lao-Hmong refugees, retired and current American government officials, Members of Congress, and U.S. supporters of the Hmong.A U.S. Department of Defense Joint Armed Services Color Guard, U.S. Army Wreath Bearer, and U.S. Army Band Bugler participated in the ceremonies.
Twenty-four years following the end of the U.S. Secret War in the Kingdom of Laos, on May 14–15, 1997, the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., Lao Veterans of America Institute, The Centre for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), Counterparts Veterans Association, and others, formally dedicated the Laos and Hmong monument in Arlington National Cemetery.National recognition ceremonies were also organized and held at the Vietnam War Memorial and the U.S. Congress to honor the Lao and Hmong veterans, their refugee families, and their American advisers.
The Lao Veterans of America, Inc., CPPA, and the other organizations who spearheaded the dedication of the monument and the national recognition ceremonies argued that there no longer existed any national security interest in denying the Secret War's existence. These organizations worked in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of Colonel Wangyee Vang and Philip Smith, to help educate policymakers and to develop bipartisan political support for these efforts. Many Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress, including key liberal and progressive Democrats, including Congressman Bruce Vento and Senator Paul Wellstone as well as Republican conservatives U.S. conservatives, rallied to support these landmark efforts to honor the Lao and Hmong veterans and their families with the dedication of the Laos and Hmong monument at Arlington National Cemetery.Many of these policymakers, including Members of Congress, also assisted the Laotian and Hmong community on others important issues, including efforts to halt and reverse the forced repatriation of Lao and Hmong refugees and asylum seekers in Southeast Asia.
Since 1997, these memorial events continue to be held annually at the Laos and Hmong Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam War Memorial and the U.S. Congress.
The day, May 15, has since been viewed as an historical one, since it represents the first time that the United States government officially and publicly recognized the important and unique contributions of these soldiers who fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War.A covert war, the contributions of the ethnic Laotians and Hmong to the U.S. war effort against the North Vietnamese Army and VietCong in Laos had been officially and repeatedly denied by the U.S. government during the Vietnam War and for over two decades following its end. Despite U.S. denials, however, the Secret War was actually the largest U.S. covert operation prior to the Soviet–Afghan War, with key areas of Laos controlled by invading communist North Vietnam's Vietnam People's Army.
At the time, some argued that the denial of the U.S. covert war, "Secret War", in the Kingdom of Laos was being used by elements within the U.S. Department of State under the Clinton administration as one key reason to wrongly justify a forced repatriation of the Hmong and Laotians from refugee camps in Thailand back to the communist regime in Laos, where they fled persecution and human rights violations. Eventually as a result as of the efforts in Washington, D.C., and Arlington National Cemetery, by the Lao Veterans of America, CPPA and other advocates and policy experts, the U.S. government formally reversed its position, acknowledging both the existence of the U.S.-led Secret War and the Lao and Hmong "Secret Army" contribution to U.S. efforts during the Vietnam War.This official reversal of U.S. policy has since been considered monumental and nearly without precedent in American foreign policy since, in acknowledging the Secret War's existence, the U.S. also implicitly acknowledged that it had lied for decades in denying that it had engaged in combat operations in Laos during the Vietnam War.
The reversal of the forced repatriation policy was subsequently supported even more vigorously by the George W. Bush Administration which strongly supported the earlier bipartisan demands of advocates, and a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Congress (including progressives, independents and conservatives) that Thailand-based Hmong refugees from Laos be afforded U.S. immigration rights.
The Secret War was funded, and supported, by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division and led by General Vang Pao, a Lao Hmong military leader who led the Hmong in supporting tens of thousands of U.S. air combat raids, along with major ground operations, against the North Vietnamese Army and the Pathet Lao communist guerillas in Laos during the Vietnam War. The Secret War was designed to counter North Vietnam's military supply efforts through Laos to South Vietnam, which U.S. military officials believed were core to North Vietnam's war strategy to destabilize U.S.-aligned South Vietnam. This memorial was the culmination of efforts by: Colonel Wangyee Vang, of the Lao Veterans of America Institute; Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, The Centre for Public Policy Analysis ( CPPA ); Grant McClure, Counterparts Veterans Association; Captain D.L. "Pappy" Hicks, Counterparts Veterans Association; and, others.
General Vang Pao was invited by the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., and the CPPA, in May 1997, to speak at the monument's dedication in Arlington National Cemetery along with others.
Following Vang Pao's death in 2011, Philip Smith and others urged, and advocated for, General Vang Pao's burial in Arlington National Cemetery to seek to honor his service to U.S. national security interests during the Vietnam War.
General Vang Pao was formally and officially honored at ceremonies at the Laos and Hmong memorial in Arlington National Cemetery in May 2011.
The Laos Memorial is inscribed with the following words:
Prominent current, and former, policymakers, veterans, government officials, diplomats, Members of the US Congress and others have provided remarks at the annual veterans memorial ceremony held in May of each year since 1997 at the Laos Memorial.Vietnam veteran and New York Times-best selling author Albert Santoli provided remarks at ceremonies held in May 2014.
The Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF) is the name of the armed forces of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the institution of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, who are charged with protecting the country.
The Hmong people are an ethnic group in East and Southeast Asia. They are a sub-group of the Miao people, and live mainly in Southern China, Vietnam and Laos. They have been members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) since 2007.
Vang Pao was a major general in the Royal Lao Army. He was a leader in the Hmong American community in the United States.
The Laotian Civil War (1959–1975) was a civil war in Laos fought between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government from 23 May 1959 to 2 December 1975. It is associated with the Cambodian Civil War and the Vietnam War, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict.
Wat Thamkrabok is a Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand, located in the Phra Phutthabat district of Saraburi Province, Thailand.
Hmong Americans are Americans of Hmong descent. Most Hmong Americans are those that emigrated to the United States as refugees in the late 1970s, and their descendants. Some refugees fled Laos due to their cooperation with the United States' Central Intelligence Agency operatives in northern Laos during the Vietnam War. Over half of the Laotian Hmong population left the country, or attempted to leave, in 1975, at the culmination of the war. About 90% of those who made it to refugee camps in Thailand were ultimately resettled in the United States. The rest, about 8 to 10%, resettled in countries including Canada, France, the Netherlands, and Australia. According to the 2010 US Census, the population count for Hmong Americans was 260,000. Hmong Americans face disparities in healthcare, and socioeconomic challenges that lead to lower health literacy and median life expectancy, and per capita income.
The insurgency in Laos refers to the ongoing, albeit sporadic, military conflict between the Lao People's Army, and Vietnam People's Army opposed primarily by members of the former "Secret Army" or the Hmong people as well as various other ethnic lowland Lao insurgencies in Laos, who have faced governmental reprisals due to Royal Lao and Hmong support for the American-led, anti-communist campaigns in Laos during the Laotian Civil War—which is an extension to the war itself. The North Vietnamese invaded Laos in 1958-59 and supported the communist Pathet Lao. It continued on the day after the end of the civil war with the Pathet Lao's capture of the Laotian capital Vientiane, who overthrew the Royal Kingdom of Laos and established a new government known as the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Albert "Al" Santoli is an American writer and Founder as well as President of the Asia America Initiative. He served in combat as a rifleman for the 25th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War. He is currently an adjunct professor of the Institute of World Politics and teaches a course entitled "Counterterrorism through Cultural Engagement and Development."
The alleged 2007 Laotian coup d'état plan was a conspiracy allegation by the United States Department of Justice that Lt. Col. Harrison Jack (Ret.) and former Royal Lao Army Major General Vang Pao, among others conspired in June 2007 to obtain large amounts of heavy weapons and ammunition in allegedly planning an attempt to overthrow the Communist government of Laos in violation of the Neutrality Act. The charges were ultimately dropped and the case helped serve to further highlight, instead, major human rights violations by the Lao government against minority Hmong and Laotian refugees and political and religious dissidents.
Laos – United States relations officially began when the United States opened a legation in Laos in 1950, when Laos was a semi-autonomous state within French Indochina. These relations were maintained after Lao independence in October 1953.
Vang Pobzeb was a Hmong American dedicated to Lao and Hmong human rights. For over 25 years, he was an outspoken critic of the Marxist governments of the Pathet Lao in Laos and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam(SRV) and their human rights violations, religious freedom violations, and persecution of the Lao and Hmong people.
The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), or Centre for Public Policy Analysis, was established in Washington, D.C. in 1988 and describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan, think tank and research organization. The CPPA is a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on foreign policy, national security, human rights, refugee and international humanitarian issues.
Jerrold B. Daniels or Jerry Daniels was a CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer (PMOO) in their Special Activities Center who worked in Laos and Thailand from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. He was known by his self-chosen CIA call-sign of "Hog." In the early 1960s, he was recruited by the CIA as a liaison officer between Hmong General Vang Pao and the CIA. He worked with the Hmong people for the CIA's operation in Laos commonly called the "Secret War" as it was little known at the time. In 1975, as the communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army advanced on the Hmong base at Long Tieng, Daniels organized the air evacuation of Vang Pao and more than two thousand of his officers, soldiers, and their families to Thailand. Immediately after the departure of Daniels and Vang Pao, thousands more Hmong fled across the Mekong river to Thailand, where they lived in refugee camps. From 1975 to 1982 Daniels worked among Hmong refugees in Thailand facilitating the resettlement of more than 50,000 of them in the United States and other countries.
The Lao Veterans of America, Inc., describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental, veterans organization that represents Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served in the U.S. clandestine war in the Kingdom of Laos during the Vietnam War as well as their refugee families in the United States.
The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. (LHRC) is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental (NGO) refugee and human rights organization. It is based nationally, and internationally, with chapters in Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. researches, and provides information and education regarding the plight of Laotian and Hmong people, and refugees persecuted in Laos, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Thailand. It was founded by Dr. Pozbeb Vang, Vang Pobzeb of Greenbay Wisconsin. The Lao Human Rights Council, Inc. is currently headed by Vaughn Vang, an educator, and former political refugee from the Royal Kingdom of Laos, who is a Hmong-American—and who was born, and grew up, in Laos prior to the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos and Marxist takeover in 1975.
The Hmong are a major ethnic group in Fresno, California. The Fresno Hmong community, along with that of Minneapolis/St. Paul, is one of the largest two urban U.S. Hmong communities. As of 1993 the Hmong were the largest Southeast Asian ethnic group in Fresno. As of 2010, there are 24,328 people of Hmong descent living in Fresno, making up 4.9% of the city's population.
The Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 2000, was passed in bipartisan fashion by the then Republican-controlled United States House of Representatives, and U.S. Senate, and signed into law at the White House by President Bill Clinton on May 26, 2000. The legislation granted Hmong and ethnic Laotian veterans, who were legal refugee aliens from the communist Lao government, and who also served in U.S.-backed guerrilla, or US special forces-backed units in Laos, during the Vietnam War, "an exemption from the English language requirement and special consideration for civics testing for certain refugees from Laos applying for naturalization." The initial Act gave these alien veterans eighteen months since the day of the bill's passage by the U.S. Congress, and its signature by the President of the United States, to file a naturalization application for honorary U.S. citizenship.
Cherzong Vang was an American community leader from St. Paul, Minnesota. He was an elder of the Hmong people in Laos and the Lao-American community in the Twin Cities of the United States.
Wangyee Vang is a Hmong-American community leader, educator and elder from Fresno, and the Central Valley, of California.
The Lao Veterans of America Institute (LVAI) is a national non-profit organization based in Fresno, and the Central Valley, of California, with chapters throughout California. It is one of the largest ethnic Lao- and Hmong-American veterans organizations representing tens of thousands of Lao Hmong veterans who served in the Vietnam War in the Royal Kingdom of Laos as well as their refugee families who were resettled in the United States after the conflict.