A confidante and family friend of the late Gen. Vang Pao, received word this afternoon that the military has declined a request by Vang’s family for his remains to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The news comes during the first day of Vang’s massive six-day funeral in Fresno.
Charlie Waters, a longtime friend of Vang and a proponent of the military burial, said he received a call from a lieutenant colonel representing a committee that had been considering the request. He told me that the committee deciding this “unanimously voted against burying Vang Pao at Arlington because it’ll take the place of an American Veteran,” Waters said.
For about 15 years during the Vietnam War, Vang Pao led Hmong troops alongside CIA officers and U.S. Special Forces and was widely praised by the Americans who served with him. But he lacked the direct U.S. military service typically required for ground burial at Arlington.
“He can take my place (in Arlington),” said Waters, who is a veteran of the Korean War. “Someone has to appeal to the president.”
Cemetery guidelines allow burial waivers for those whose military service “directly and substantially benefited” the U.S. military.
Exemptions may be granted by either the secretary of defense or the secretary of veterans affairs.
Several California lawmakers had requested that the late Hmong leader be granted a burial spot in Arlington, including Rep. Jim Costa, D.-Fresno.
The U.S. Army has confirmed that Gen. Vang Pao’s family’s request to have him buried at Arlington National Cemetery has been denied. “The family’s request for exception to the burial policy was thoroughly reviewed by a board comprised of senior military and civilian officials,” said Army Spokesman Gary Tallman. “After a comprehensive analysis, the board unanimously recommended denial.”
Tallman said Secretary of the Army John McHugh accepted the board’s recommendation after careful review.
By Stephen Magagnini
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