Hmong veterans honor sacrifice

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Veteran Nao Shoua Xiong looks through photographs from his military days Tuesday at his Wausau home. (Corey Schjoth/Wausau Daily Herald)

A tribute to Vietnam War veterans set for Green Bay this weekend is meant to be a long-awaited welcome home for American soldiers.

It also will have a different -- but just as deep -- meaning for Hmong fighters who lost their homes as a result of the war. Twenty to 30 Wausau-area Hmong veterans, CIA-backed soldiers who fought on the side of the United States, plan to attend LZ Lambeau, the three-day event that starts Friday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Named after the landing zones of the war, LZ Lambeau is expected to attract tens of thousands of veterans and their families.

The Hmong soldiers commanded by Gen. Vang Pao fought in Laos, guarding secret radar installations constructed there, rescuing American pilots and disrupting communist supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used by the North Vietnamese to shuttle supplies to South Vietnam.

Many Hmong soldiers had to abandon their native homes and country after the United States pulled out of Vietnam and ended its support of Vang Pao's army. Vang Pao and many of his soldiers ended up in the United States as refugees.

Nao Shoua Xiong, 54, of Wausau, the vice president of the Wisconsin chapter of the Lao Veterans of America, will attend the event as a way to honor his
fellow veterans and remember those who were killed in the war.

"We lost our homes; we lost our country; we lost our people," Xiong said. "But that's OK; they took us to this country now. This is home."

Xiong, who rose to the rank of lieutenant after serving under Vang Pao from 1970 to 1975, still wakes up with nightmares from the war.

"It's like I'm still on the front, fighting," he said.

His father, uncle and brother all were killed in battle.

Xiong will be joined at LZ Lambeau by fellow Wausau-area veterans such as Ben Lee, who served in Vang Pao's army from 1969 to 1975.

"That very important to recognize the soldiers in the war," Lee said in Hmong, with Xiong interpreting.


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