Tuesday, August 4, 2009
By Itica MilanesFresno, CA (KFSN) -- The C.I.A. hand-picked General Vang Pao to help the U.S. fight in Vietnam. Pao in turn recruited tens of thousands of Hmong and other Southeast Asians, and then trained and armed them. Valley Congressman Jim Costa drafted the legislation that could grant these veterans the same honors U.S. veterans receive when they die. The proposal is being reviewed by congressional attorneys on Capitol Hill. Costa said, "These are now aging veterans who not only gave their lives for their country but for our country."
Veterans advocate Charlie Waters, who is helping with the effort said, "They deserved to be helped, they helped us." Waters estimates there are between 10,000 to 15,000 Asian Vietnam veterans in California, Wisconsin and Michigan who cherish the idea of being buried with the same military honors granted to U.S. veterans. Waters said, "They fought with us alongside of us, they died, they bled, they were wounded. They were buried in the jungle if they died. If they survived the family took care of them even until now. There are veterans that are still ill and never recovered. Bill Dietzel, publisher of Veterans Magazine said "Without them we would have lost hundreds of thousands more troops because of the deterrent they did on the Ho Chi Min trail." He's working with the Department of Veterans Affairs on the registration requirements. He said that process would involve "Identify these veterans through photos, id cards or driver's license or Social Security numbers."
Congressman Costa says his legislation would be an addendum to an existing bill that provided the same military burial honors to Philippine allies. The Philippino's fought during WW II; they received compensation of $15,000 or $9,000 each for their participation in WW II.
If President Obama signs off, veterans could get up to $2,000 worth of benefits that may include a coffin, a tombstone