On Tuesday, the Alaska State Senate unanimously passed HJR 16, encouraging Congress to grant Hmong Vietnam veterans the same benefits as other veterans of that war.
Although they were paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Hmong soldiers have never been recognized as U.S. veterans, and they receive no benefits. More than 35,000 Hmong and Lao soldiers died fighting for the United States in the conflict.
Rep. David Nelson, an Anchorage Republican who introduced the resolution said, “HJR 16 is deeply meaningful to Hmong people in Alaska and I’m so proud of the unanimous and bipartisan support from the Alaska Legislature. The promises made for the sacrifices the Hmong soldiers gave on behalf of the United States is long overdue and have gone largely unrecognized. I hope this resolution to the President of the United States and United States Congress shows the Hmong people that we have not forgotten and will continue to fight on their behalf.”
Rep. Laddie Shaw, another Anchorage Republican and a Navy SEAL who fought alongside Hmong soldiers in Vietnam, wrote the following in support of the resolution:
“In the early 1960’s the CIA sought out the Hmong and recruited them to fight a “secret war” against the North Vietnamese and the communist Pathet Lao. The Hmong played many critical roles under the directions of the of the CIA. They provided direct support and were a lifeline to the Navy SEAL’s, providing intelligence about enemy operations and helping in the rescue of drowned American pilots. During the US Troop pullout in 1973, the Hmong were singled out by the victorious communist governments of Laos and Vietnam. It is estimated that more than 10% (35,000) of the entire Hmong population in Laos died as a result of war. After the fall of Saigon in 1975 the Hmong were hunted down, taken to concentration camps, put into hard labor and persecuted. Their villages were sprayed with chemical weapons and bombed with napalm with an estimated loss of 20,000 additional victims. Many who survived suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally until this day. The Hmong Veterans deserve recognition for their heroic participation in support of American troops…above and beyond the call of duty!”
Pasert Lee, the President of The Hmong Alaska Community, Inc. said he was deeply moved by the bill. “This legislation is an important way to honor Hmong American Veterans who choose to settle in the United States.”