Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Memorial Day is a time to honor all United States veterans who served in the military. But there's a group of Vietnam vets living in America who do not always receive the honor they deserve.
In the early 1960's the United States involvement in the Vietnam War was escalating and Communism was spreading throughout Southeast Asia.
If the Communists siezed control of Laos, the U.S. government feared they could take over the entire region.
President John F. Kennedy asked the CIA to quietly recruit and train thousands of Hmong people living in the mountains of Laos to help fight the Communist organization, known as the Pathet Lao.
It was known as the "Secret War" because Laos was a neutral country and it would be considered an act of war if the U.S. put troops on the ground there.
The Hmong soldiers, led by General Vang Pao, already resisted the Pathet Lao but did not have the means to fight back.
But armed with American weapons and training the Hmong people became a formiddable fighting force who greatly helped the United States by fighting the Communists on an infamous military supply route.
"The American CIA wanted to stop spread of Communism around the world and the United States President John F. Kennedy asked the King of Laos for help in blocking the Ho Chi Minh Trail", said Laos veteran Nao Shoua Xiong.
When the U.S. pulled out of the war in 1975, the Hmong people were targeted by the Pathet Lao because they helped the United States. The Hmong had to flee their own country or likely face death. Many of them went to Thailand and lived in refugee camps.
In the late 1970's the U.S. military brought many of them to America to have a chance at a better life. And their contributions in the Vietnam War are something many people don't know about.