Friday, January 21, 2011
A magazine featuring a picture of General Vang Pao sits on the alter during the vigil at the Hmong Palace Church in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Jan. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/The Sacramento Bee, Autumn Cruz) (AP)
APPLETON – Hmong refugees scattered around the world can tune in to the funeral of revered Hmong Army Gen. Vang Pao thanks to the efforts of an Appleton communications entrepreneur.
Kor Xiong, president of Appleton-based Hmong Wisconsin Radio, is playing a role in organizing national and local memorials to Vang Pao, best known to the non-Hmong community as the leader of a CIA-sponsored "Secret War" against communist forces in Laos during the Vietnam War.
Vang Pao, 81, died Jan. 6 in Fresno, Calif., of complications from pneumonia. Hmong guerillas led by Vang Pao were credited with diverting the attention of significant numbers of communist troops away from U.S. forces during the war.
Thousands of Hmong from across Wisconsin are expected to travel to Appleton over the course of nine days beginning Jan. 29 to mourn and honor the general, known not only for his military leadership, but also for his devotion to the education of Hmong children.
There are no formal memorials planned for Vang Pao in the Sheboygan area, said ChaSong Yang, executive director of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association of Sheboygan.
Reverence for Vang Pao is so strong that his name is still written and spoken in the traditional Hmong fashion — with last name before first name — instead of the English-language fashion of first name before surname that most Hmong in the U.S. have adopted.
"When Gen. Vang Pao was still in Laos it didn't matter if it involved traveling to the bottom of the biggest hill or the top of the highest mountain. If a school needed a teacher he would find a helicopter if necessary to get a teacher to that school," Xiong said.
Xiong is attempting to emulate Vang Pao's desire to reach all Hmong by establishing the first Hmong satellite television station, currently known as Hmong Satellite TV, which will offer Hmong-oriented broadcasting 24 hours a day.
The station was due to inaugurate service in mid-April, but Vang Pao's death pushed forward the unveiling to Feb. 4.
Using rented equipment, Xiong will coordinate live, around-the-clock video coverage of Vang Pao's memorial and funeral set for Feb. 9. An estimated 40,000 people are expected to view Vang Pao's body in California.
Those wishing to view the memorial and funeral can watch via a satellite feed or online at www.hmongsatellitetv.com.
The Appleton memorial is expected to attract about 3,000 mourners to Richmond Hall, 2531 N. Richmond St., including Hmong military veterans from all corners of Wisconsin.
As many as 700 Hmong veterans of the Vietnam War could travel to Appleton for the memorial service said Za Blong Vang of Appleton, chief councilor of the Hmong 18 Clan Council of Wisconsin and a local Hmong leader who fought alongside Vang Pao during the Vietnam War from 1961 through 1975.
The Appleton memorial begins Jan. 29 with participation from Hmong military veterans and presentations by Hmong leaders. Vang Pao's family opted last week against bringing his body to the Midwest for viewings, saying it would be impossible to preserve the body during the trip.
On Jan. 30, Hmong youth are encouraged to attend the memorial service. From Jan. 31 through Feb. 4, Richmond Hall will be open each day to mourners from 9 a.m. to noon and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
A community dinner is set for Feb. 5 at Richmond Hall.