Thursday, May 27, 2010
WESTON -- D.C. Everest Senior High School students paid tribute Wednesday to a group of Hmong veterans who fought an obscure war for the United States.
More than 50 Hmong veterans of Gen. Vang Pao's army, which fought against communist forces in Laos as a proxy for the United States, were honored for their service by the school's Youth Cultural Leadership of America club. The conflict in Laos was dubbed the Secret War because it was funded covertly by the CIA, and beyond communities influenced by the Hmong, many Americans still don't know it was fought.
That's why club members decided to honor Wausau-area veterans for Memorial Day.
"They haven't received recognition at all," said Ashley Hess, 18, a senior and vice president of the YCLA. "They, too, lost people. They lost their homes."
It was a simple but touching, ceremony, held in the school's library. Student leaders of the club gave their thanks to the soldiers -- some dressed in sharp black dress uniforms, some in jungle fatigues. The students hung medallions around the necks of the soldiers, and then served cake, cookies and spring rolls.
Nor Pao Lor, 64, fought with Vang Pao's forces from 1960 to 1975 and was wounded several times. He said, through an interpreter, that he was honored to attend.
Most people don't understand the roles Hmong played in the war, Lor said, and he appreciated the recognition.
Teng Yang, 17, a junior and YCLA president, said the idea of holding a memorial fete for the soldiers came to club members only a few weeks ago.
He wasn't sure how many veterans would attend, and the turnout was more than he expected.
"Usually, Hmong veterans are forgotten," Yang said. "And while some people understand what the Hmong did, most don't know the depth of it."
Xeng Xiong, president of the Marathon County chapter of Lao Veterans of America Inc., said the idea of students honoring the veterans is "touching in our hearts."