On May 14, 1975, Communist Lao Pathet forces swarmed the CIA military base in Long Tieng, Laos, and the regime began a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against the Hmong for cooperating with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
That was the last day of the American evacuation of Hmong and U.S. personnel. Lore has it that Hmong Gen. Vang Pao “stayed to the very last minute and caught the last flight out on May 14,” said Liz Xiong, a community organizer with TakeAction Minnesota. “It marked the beginning of the Hmong-American diaspora.”
Vang Pao eventually visited the Twin Cities, seeding the Lao Family Community organization and opening the door to a refugee community that now exceeds 60,000 Hmong-Americans in Minnesota.
On Sunday, May 12, hundreds of visitors are expected for the first Hmong American Day. The event, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Lao Family Community Center at 320 W. University Ave., will recognize Hmong veterans who fought alongside U.S. forces in Laos, as well as the contributions of Hmong-Americans to Minnesota.
The event will be followed by an open mic performance session from 4 to 8 p.m., hosted by the Center for Hmong Arts and Talents.
The daylong celebration, which is free and open to the public, features speeches by civil leaders, cultural activities, food, and a photo exhibit dedicated to the general, who died in January 2011, and the U.S. “Secret War” in Laos.
The event will also feature a 10-minute photo slideshow presentation
from the Bill Andresevic Collection at the Hmong Studies Center of Concordia University. In the early 1960s, Andresevic flew helio prop planes into Laos for Air America — a passenger airline secretly operated by the CIA.
Xang Vang plans to take his granddaughters Keily Vang, 3, and Manaly Vang, 6, to the ceremony.
Xang Vang, Vang Pao’s former lieutenant and ammunitions officer in the Special Guerrilla Unit in Laos, is among community leaders eager to install a Hmong veterans memorial on the state Capitol grounds.
“I think they should learn what their grandfather had done back in a country they have never seen before,” he said.
The proposed memorial would be a tall bronze bamboo sprout, with layers representing Hmong, Laotian and American soldiers, as well as something to tell of the experience of the Hmong in America.
Sunday’s celebration, which is being chaired by the Hmong 18 Council, was initially going to be held at Fort Snelling State Park on Saturday, but it was rescheduled and relocated because of scheduling conflicts and financial constraints, said organizers.
“We’ve got a very broad base of support for the event, with over 20 Hmong and non-Hmong organizations partnering and sponsoring,” Liz Xiong said. Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton has declared May 14 “Hmong-American Day.”
Main Source: Pioneerpress.com
Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2172. Follow him at twitter.com/FrederickMelo.
For more information about the celebration, go to facebook.com/HmongAmericanDayMN.