Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Directed by Seng Yang and starring: Steve Moua, Nancy Vang and Gideon Xiong.


A love triangle between two good friends Nraug Hli Xiong aka 'X', Tou Lee and a fictional dream girl, Nkauj Hnub Xiong. X is every woman's dream man. He's successful, intelligent and beyond gorgeous, but even with all his good fortune X is empty knowing and sensing that his life is hollow and missing an essential element. Searching for the spark to his life X turns to his dreams and there finds this fantasy girl. Their love blossoms in his subconscious and X deters from reality to find a way to make his fantasy love come to life. However, trying to change the hands of fate, changes their destiny and X is trapped between two worlds.

Our Plan

We are finished with pre-production and have already shot a few scenes in its entirety.  Including all the scenes in the movie trailer and more.  The Rose Cloth is a full feature movie.  So less than 80% of the film is yet to be finished.  Once our pledged goal reaches 100%, we will resume production full force.  The task will be spread loaded among the film crew.  The film production will be based in Atlanta, Ga. and rural areas.  Once completed it will be moved into the post production phase. 

What the money will be used for

The $40,000 from KickStarter will contribute to
  • Production:  80% left to shoot, equipment  rentals, cost of props, property fees & set location rentals  
  • Final Sound:  ensure clean, crisp sound as if you are there
  • Musical Score:  music to suit the mood
  • Color Correction:  final touch ups
  • Visual Effects:  computer graphics to enhance live sets and scenery 

Backers who chose DVD or Blue Ray as your reward will be mail out on the expected release in 2012. 

Like us on Facebook:!/pages/Toj-Siab-Entertainment/220848574598713
Follow us on Twitter:!/TOJSIABENT
Extended trailer:

CREDITS:  "Grand Universe" by Antifan-Real, "Parallel Universe" by VisionGFX, "Discovering Space" by Mat Kraken, "Purple Wormhole" by unknown artist, "Wormhole Extravaganza" by Casperium, "Blue Wormhole" by unknown artist, "Parallel Universe" by unknown artist, "Hmong Girl Umbrella" by Jeff Lindsay, "Gen. Vang Pao, Peace" poster by unknown artist.  "Broken" instrumental by Seether and Amy Lee, all copyrights to Wind-up Records, LLC.  THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!
* The images used in this video are for the purpose of our KickStarter and other online video only and not for mass production.  The music used in trailer is for purpose of the trailer only and will not be apart of the final full feature.  



St. Paul’s Hmong Village…not your ordinary market!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The cold, rainy spring has held many local farmers back from bringing produce to the area farmers’ markets. But there is one market that is open rain, shine or snow. It is the Hmong Village at 1001 Johnson Boulevard in St. Paul.

Opened last November, the market features 35 produce booths, 17 food booths, 230 merchant stalls, a number of services, and 40 offices. It was the intent of its creator Yia Vang to create a community space where people are comfortable shopping and where all generations can meet and just visit. And while it features many Hmong products and food, it also offers Somali, Chinese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and Thai items as well.

The food court featuring everything from full meals to snacks to bakery goods and soft drinks will take more than one visit to truly appreciate. The Heavy Table sampled about 25 of the offerings and included photos and descriptions on their website Some of the choices include Pad See Ew, Papaya Salad, Fried Black Sesame Cookies, Chicken Feet, Pho Fawm, Hmong Sausage, Pho Roll, Beef Lab with Sticky Rice, Steamed White Bass, and so much more. While the food court has a hallway of tables and chairs, taking the food out for a picnic somewhere else is a much better idea for on busy days the tables inside are full.

Hmong Village is open every day from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., but some vendors do not open until 11 a.m. and some are only open Saturdays and Sundays. I visited on a Friday about 11 a.m. and found all of the food stalls open, about half of the produce stands, and only about 20% of the clothing, gift, DVD, and other shops open. But, it was still enough to offer a unique shopping experience.

The market is in a former warehouse, but since it is only one story high, it seems very people friendly. More than $3 million was spent to upgrade the building and to section it off into small shops all lining the many hallways. The indoor produce and dried herb market gets an outdoor feeling from the massive, hand painted wall murals depicting outdoor scenes. Entrance doors on three sides of the building are labeled with a letter of the alphabet so if you remember the letter when you enter, you should be able to get directions back to the door nearest your car. Door G on the far side of the building is nearest to the produce and dried herb market while door D on the opposite side of the building is nearest to the food court. This is the side of the building you first encounter when you drive into the parking area. So if you are looking for something to eat, take a left and park in the first parking area and enter through door D. While you can enter any door and walk through the hallways that open to all 280+ shops, knowing the area you most want to visit will cut down on unnecessary walking. There are no maps or written guides, but all of the vendors are very helpful.

There is plenty of parking on three sides of the building weekdays, but on weekends you may have to park on the street a block or two away.

Vang’s vision of a place to work, meet friends, shop and get a taste of Hmong culture appears to be drawing people from across the area. It is a welcome addition to the community.



Hmong leaders to meet to curb violence

Hmong clan leaders will learn specific steps they can take to prevent domestic abuse and violence in their communities at a July 9 conference in Wausau.

The daylong conference, called Breaking the Silence, Collaboratively, will outline for the state's Hmong clan leaders protocols they should follow when they learn about family abuse -- or the threat of it.

The protocols were developed by the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Core Committee, a group that has worked for the past two years to curb Hmong domestic violence. It was formed in summer 2009 after Hmong military and cultural leader Gen. Vang Pao condemned domestic abuse during a visit to Wausau.

The July 9 meeting at The Rose Garden will celebrate the work already done by the Core Committee, said Mao Khang, a committee member and Southeast Asian coordinator for The Women's Community in Wausau.

"But it also is just the beginning," Khang said. "We hope to bring in allies of the larger community, (and show) how we can work together to keep the family safe; keep the community safe."

Khang was instrumental in bringing Vang Pao to Wausau after a string of high-profile domestic abuse cases involving Hmong families made headlines. Those included the slayings of Pa Houa Thao in 2007 and Padalina Thao in 2006, both from Weston.

Those cases also spurred Weston to form its own anti-abuse and violence group, Everest Men Respect, which often has worked in tandem with the Hmong Core Committee.

Weston Village Administrator Dean Zuleger thinks the efforts of both groups have made an impact, and was impressed with the number of Hmong leaders who participated in the process.

"I wish all cultures and subsections of cultures would take this as seriously as Hmong culture in Wisconsin has taken it," Zuleger said.

Many Hmong-Americans still organize themselves under the traditional clan system the culture has embraced for generations. Hmong clan leaders help preserve cultural traditions, but also help Hmong families and groups solve problems as a community.

In the past, clan leaders were apt to cover up cases of abuse, asking victims to return to their homes with promises that the situation will get better, Khang said.

The Committee not only has created protocols for clan leaders that give victims more options, but also have given clan leaders mediation training, the last session of which will be held at the July 9 conference.

Now clan leaders "know there are options and ways to deal with victims," Khang said. "I know it will not happen overnight. The clan leaders must be persistent, strong and dedicated to this cause, or it will not work."



A One Man's Show

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ly Seo Ho performs a piece of Hmong’s martial arts in front of his house in Ban Pho Commune, Lao Cai Province

Dubbed a “living cultural treasure,” one man is a repository of music, dance and martial arts of the ethnic minority community of Hmong people in the northern province of Lao Cai.

At 66, Ly Seo Ho looks like any other senior citizen of Ban Pho Commune, where about 568 Hmong families live in 13 villages, working in the fields during the day and returning home at sunset.

The famous traditional wine made of corn and some musical instruments are their companions at night.

But Ho has more on his agenda.

Every day, he receives visitors, both Vietnamese and foreigners, who want to see him perform folk songs, dances and even martial arts of his people that he has learnt and mastered over the past 50 years.

Before every performance, Ho, who knows 360 folk songs, invites his audience to a few generous sips of the Ban Pho’s famous wine, because “after having some you will get a better feel of the performance.”

Following the wine treat, he introduces the visitors to the traditional culture of Hmong with a pair of khen – a wind instrument consisting of six bamboo tubes of different diameters and lengths.

Ho says the instrument is usually used by men at funerals and festivals, adding that to make a good khen, it takes a month of searching to get a suitable bamboo section.

“Khen is not only for making music, but also a dancing prop for a unique dance of the Hmong people, but these days very few people know it.”

He said in the past Hmong men would have learnt the dance when they were 12 or 13 years old, but this does not happen now.

Although his age forces him to take a break every 15 minutes or so, Ho weaves various dances and songs into his performance.

For example, he would include a dance with another traditional instrument, senh tien – a bamboo section with 12 copper leaves attached at two ends, creating a unique sound as its user dances. This is a dance that is usually performed by six to eight men and women at festivals.

When he has time, Ho can also tell stories about his people’s traditional martial art skills, which applies two principles - using softness to fight hardness, and intelligence to fight strength.

Asked how much he charges for his performances, Ho smiles: “I’m happy to perform, be known and supported by people. Because I have the chance to introduce Hmong culture to friends from all over the world, I don’t ask for fees.”

However, some tourists do pay him, and Ho assumes it is for the wine.

“I’m old now. Every evening when I return from the field, I don’t really do anything except have a drink,” Ho said.

“When tourists visit my house, I sing and dance for fun, because nowadays, our young people prefer to work rather than learn our traditions.”

Still, Ho has not lost hope about the future of Hmong traditional culture in Ban Pho.

He says he is trying his best to preserve his knowledge and skills, and is hopeful that young people will find them interesting.


Will the Hmong Sports Festival happen in 2011?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

With less than a month until July 4th, the question needs to be asked, “Will the Hmong Sports Festival happen this year?”

There are no fliers posted. The website is “Under Construction”. And when you call the front desk of Lao Family in St. Paul—the event’s organizer for the last 30 years--the answer is consistently the same:

“We believe the Sports Festival will happen on July 4th Weekend,” answers the receptionist, who admits nearly all the phone calls lately are inquiries about the tournament. “But we don’t have details yet. You’ll need to talk to the director.”

Perhaps even more alarming is that there are no city permits registered for the Sports Festival—an event that involves complex, multi-departmental planning needed to safely and effectively engineer the two-day event.

With less than 20 days to go, city officials seemed a bit concerned that the permits had not been pulled, yet remained optimistic.

Sgt. John Lozoya from the office of Police Community Services confirmed that despite the short period of time available to plan for the event, he was sure “The Hmong Sports Festival will happen.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Safety and Inspections confirmed that although “nobody from Lao Family has come in yet” she was convinced that the organizers would still be able to obtain the Special Events License necessary for food vendors to operate at the Festival.

“The Hmong Sports Festival is treated differently than any other event in the city. They do plan to get this done.”

The prevailing message coming from those at the city as well as those from Lao Family is that the Festival will happen because the Festival is too big not to happen.

Known as the single largest gathering of Hmong people in the world, the Sports Festival—otherwise known as ‘July 4 or J4’—is a financial boon, not only for the Hmong economy, but also for the City of St. Paul.

In terms of the number of out-of-state visitors it attracts annually, the Hmong Sports Festival is believed to be one of the biggest events in the city of St. Paul, generating millions of dollars for restaurants, hotels and area malls.

Specifically for the Hmong economy, the Festival is ground-zero for the numerous Hmong entertainment retailers hoping to score big with their newest movie, CD or fashion item.

For those two days, hundreds of booths are erected on a few square acres in Como Park, bringing to life thunderous sounds and eye-popping visuals.

“This is the Super Bowl for the Hmong people,” said Moua Lee of Golden Path Entertainment, one of the pioneering movie makers in the Hmong community. “I would say 99% of the entertainment world targets J4 as the time when they release their new movies or CDs. This is where I—and many, many others-- make a majority of our sales each year.”

With no flier or contact information, retailers from all around the country are in the dark as to how they can reserve a booth or even make the trip to St. Paul this year.

Not only does the Sports Festival site at McMurray Fields swell with tens of thousands of attendees, but outside events all around the Twin Cities are specifically scheduled during that same weekend to take advantage of all the people in town.

Kace Vang from the band Destiny, for instance, has reserved the 3,500-capacity Myth Nightclub to hold a concert on July 3rd.

“If the Sports Festival doesn’t happen during the July 4th weekend, I think we’re dead,” joked Vang. “Yeah, we would have serious problems.”

For those sports teams planning to make the trip to Minnesota, the dilemma is even more harrowing because each team consists of many players.

David Xiong from Typhoon Futbol Club, for instance, needs to arrange the travel of more than 20 of his soccer players who are coming in from all over the country.

“With no fliers or contact info, we don’t even know if the Tournament will happen!” Xiong alarmed. “It would be a big waste of time and money if we all came to the Twin Cities only to discover that the Tournament was cancelled.”

Whether the sport is soccer, football, volleyball or kato, there are many complications to putting together a two-day tournament. With no sports director at the helm, teams and participants are finding ways to move ahead.

Kong Vang of the Plaza Boyz, the returning men’s flag-football champions, said that he and other team leaders have already taken it upon themselves to organize the football tournament on their own—without an official coordinator from Lao Family as in past years.

“It became too frustrating to wait and wait,” echoed Vang about the lack of planning and communication with the Festival’s organizers. “We decided we should just take control of the tournament and make sure this gets done right.”

Pointing to the cancellation of this year’s Water Fest—California’s most popular Hmong sporting festival held over the Memorial Day Weekend --Vang is concerned that the Festival in Minnesota will follow suit, especially because the organizer of Water Fest is also a branch of Lao Family (of Fresno).

“They kept telling us all along that the event was going to happen. And then, at the very last moment they cancelled the event,” Vang recalled with frustration. “Luckily we hadn’t bought the airline tickets yet, otherwise the team could have lost thousands of dollars.”

Even if the Sports Festival in St. Paul does find a way to happen in July as planned, the great lack of planning thus far is “completely irresponsible” noted organizational consultant Kathy Mouacheupao.

“To not even have a telephone number posted for people to call about the event is beyond excusable. There is so much at stake here, I’m in disbelief about how neglectful this organization is towards the general public—especially those who are planning to travel here in July!”

In terms of the tradition and prestige that the 4th of July Sports Festival had built up for the last 30 years, most observers we spoke to agreed that things have certainly gone the wrong way as of late.

This digression over the years is reflected in the overall numbers of attendees, which have been diminishing over the years. This negative trend is something that Lao Family executive director Long Yang is keen on reversing.

According to IRS records, Lao Family reported a combined loss of nearly $74,000 from hosting the Summer Sports Festival and Hmong New Years in 2007, the year before Yang stepped in.

In 2008, Yang’s first year as executive director, those losses were reduced to only $1,000. In 2009, Lao Family reported a $7,500 net loss.

On their 2009 Form-990, Lao Family claimed to collect $377,485 of total revenue from the July Festival. This includes all the cash collected at the gates, income from booth rentals and sponsorships.

Listing a total of $377,485 in expenses, there was a total net revenue of only $2,837. Itemized expenses include park rental, security, trash and prize payouts which totaled, by itself, more than $50,000.

“Because these events are so prominent and have high numbers of attendees, people believe that Lao Family makes lots of money from these events,” Yang explained. “But there are so many expenses involved and politics to deal with that by hosting these events, we actually lose money.”

This year, for example, there was a $40,000 debt that Lao Family owed to the City of St. Paul for expenses incurred during previous festivals.

Although not confirmed by city officials, that outstanding bill had been recently paid, assured Yang.

“I know it has been paid, because I personally went to the city and paid for it myself,” Yang proclaimed. “It was a matter of allocating funds from the correct pool of money. Everything we do with this tournament is under tight regulations and supervision.”

Referring to the 2006 court ordered restrictions mandated by then state Attorney General Mike Hatch, Yang produces a court document outlining a number of rules that Lao Family must comply with in organizing the Sports Festival.

Caught in the crossfire between the Attorney General’s office and the now defunct Vang Pao Foundation, Lao Family’s financials were highly scrutinized after it was found that the Vang Pao Foundation had squandered away $500,000 in undocumented expenses.

As a result, the Vang Pao Foundation was ordered to shut down completely. While Lao Family was spared, the organization was ordered to meticulously document all its financial activities, in particular to the way it managed money in operating their two major festivals, the Sports Festival and the Hmong New Year held in down town St. Paul.

“We are regulated to document every dollar that comes in and every dollar that is spent according to compliance rules,” proclaims Yang, pointing to the list of guidelines drawn up on the court document. “There are some very strict penalties if we are in violation. We need to be 100% transparent about our finances.”

The damage to Lao Family’s reputation went beyond the courtroom. Donors and corporate sponsors backed away from the once lucrative sponsorship deals that bolstered the organization’s bottom line.

Beyond the financial issues that Lao Family had been facing, this past year has been extremely challenging. Compounded with the passing of Gen. Vang Pao, the founder and symbolic head of Lao Family, the organization has been battling through the highly publicized board election fiasco which has resulted in an all-out rift between member elected board president Tou Xiong and court appointed board president ChuPheng Lee.

This dilemma began last December when Lao Family opened its board elections to the general public. Over 1,500 voters showed up, only to find themselves in a process that would turn out to be highly flawed with hundreds of pre-registered voters being told that they were ineligible. There were accusations of candidate fraud and conflicts of interest forcing Lao Family officials to seal the election results. Four months later, Lao Family held another election in which the candidate Tou Xiong was found victorious.

The situation got uglier when candidate ChuPheng Lee sued Lao Family in District Court to force the results of the first election to be unsealed. When the courts ruled in favor of Lee, the results showed that Lee had won the election. The courts then took it a step further to officially vacate the second election and declaring Lee as the Board President, enforcing the results from the original elections.

However, members of Lao Family voiced their displeasure in the court ruling, insisting that their second election was valid and thus holding on to the result that Tou Xiong is the Board President.

“Let’s get to the point,” said Long Yang bluntly. “The reason why we are so behind on planning for the Festival is because of the board situation. We have two sets of board members sitting across from one another arguing about everything, including what the name of the Festival should be to who’s phone number should be put on the flyer.”

With a look of frustration, Yang shrugged his shoulders.

“The action plan is that in the next few years we will shift responsibilities of running events to staff who are hired specifically to run these events, but for this year, my job is to work with both boards to get this event operating.

It’s not going to be easy, but I can assure you, July 4th Sports Festival will happen this year.”



Maplewood couple never legally married, but court allows divorce

Thursday, June 9, 2011

If one person in a relationship believes the couple is married and the other says they're not, what does the law say?

A Maplewood woman divorcing her husband of 18 years argued she should be treated as a spouse because she had a "good-faith belief" that they were legally married.

Initially wed in the Hmong tradition, Su Xiong and Choa Yang Xiong described themselves as husband and wife, obtained a marriage license and filed taxes and bought houses and insurance together as a married couple.

They did not, however, get a marriage certificate. The husband, Su Xiong, argued in court that this meant they were not legally married.

But the state Court of Appeals agreed with a Ramsey County district judge this week that the woman was a "putative spouse" under Minnesota law, with all the benefits that implies.

"It's very sordid, kind of a horrible situation," said Jon Geffen, attorney for the wife, Choa Xiong.

"She stayed home and raised seven kids; he built a business," Geffen said. "She'd have no claim to any of the property and business that accumulated in those years, which are substantial."

Choa Xiong's divorce filing of December 2008 says the couple owned and sold many homes over the years. They owned Century Auto Repair and Body Shop until they sold it in 2007 for $660,000. They also owned several international businesses, including a financial institution and a supermarket in Thailand, three houses, 11 lots for fruit and tree businesses and a pig farm.
Choa Xiong, now 39, came to the United States from a refugee camp in Laos when she was about 16, according to the appeals court decision. She spoke no English. When she graduated from high school four years later, she could read only basic words in English.

Su Xiong, on the other hand, was eight years older and had some college education. He was also more experienced in American life.

Because of those factors, and their culture, Geffen said, "he was the one in charge."

The couple was married in a Hmong ceremony two weeks after they met. When Choa Xiong turned 18, the two families decided they should get a "marriage license."

"The leader of the Xiong clan testified (at trial) that he advised clan members that if they get a marriage license, they are legally married in Minnesota," the court opinion said.

But Choa Xiong testified that in the Hmong language, they do not distinguish between "license" and "certificate" and that her brother said she needed a "marriage paper."

When they filled out the paperwork for the marriage license from Ramsey County, she recalled, a clerk "told them to raise their right hands and sign something."

"Afterwards, Xiong told (her) that they 'were officially married...and that was the end of it.' "

Ramsey County District Court referee Ann Leppanen recommended on April 15, 2010, that the couple be considered married and hence were now divorced.

She said Su Xiong's testimony was "conflicting and self-serving...and should not be given weight."

She noted Su Xiong was a professional tax preparer, and yet he admitted to filing taxes for himself and Choa Xiong as "married" because it saved them money.

"Of course, the foundation of this statement is clear: (Su Xiong) is willing to lie, even to the federal government, if it is in his best financial interest."

Su Xiong's attorney said this week that the Court of Appeals' ruling was flawed.

The putative spouse law is intended to correct errors, such as when a couple is married by a clergyperson who they later find wasn't licensed, Lawrence Crosby said.

"Because otherwise, everybody's going to be in court all the time. Because anyone can say, I thought I was married."

Those who go through the required steps have the right to consider themselves married, Crosby said. "And if you don't go through the required steps, you have no such right at all."

Geffen said the courts see few putative spouse cases in Minnesota.

"We didn't really have a blueprint, because it hadn't really been litigated," he said.

Though the Xiongs' divorce was finalized last year, issues of child custody, parenting time and division of property were put off pending the appellate court ruling.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.


Minnesota law says "(a)ny person who has cohabited with another to whom the person is not legally married in the good-faith belief that the person was married to the other is a putative spouse until knowledge of the fact that the person is not legally married terminates the status and prevents acquisition of further rights."

In its decision issued Monday, the state Court of Appeals ruled that whether a person had a good-faith belief that he or she was legally married "is measured subjectively."



Remembering our secret veterans

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Memorial Day weekend we recognize the service of our veterans in America. I was adopted from Laos by a family of military men and women, and have a deep appreciation for this day. I was raised with family stories about the Army, Navy and Air Force and many of my friends were Marines.

Growing up, I learned from my parents about the secret war in Laos that took place while America was involved in Vietnam. The full details weren’t spoken of much except in brief snippets and hints and the occasional newspaper article.

In the 1990s that began to change when more Americans who’d covertly participated in the conflict broke silence. I also found many veterans of the Royal Lao Army in my travels who nearly died for helping the US. It saddens me how many of those stories are lost every year.

Of the 400,000 Laotians resettled in the US, many were American allies even when the US was not officially supposed to be in Laos. Because of their efforts, countless American lives were saved because so many of the enemy never made it past Laos.

They played a pivotal role working alongside men such as the pilots of Air America and the Ravens Forward Air Controllers to slow down the flow of men, weapons and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from North Vietnam into South Vietnam.

In this war, a Hmong pilot named Lee Lue made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for most combat missions flown. He used a modified T-28 airplane normally meant for training, not actual combat. A former school teacher, he was going to be part of a new generation of educators before the war cut his life short.

The politics and legality were incredibly convoluted but the final result is that Laos became the most heavily bombed nation of the 20th century. More US bombs fell on Laos than all of Europe during World War 2. Thousands were lost and displaced by this conflict. But this is not a chapter that’s included in most history books. America is built on many forgotten stories like this, but we must expect better of ourselves.

This was an issue that became acutely clear with the murder of Thung Phetakhoune in July, 2001 in New Hampshire. A ranting drunkard named Richard Labbe pushed Phetakhoune, a frail, 62-year old, 120-pound veteran of the Royal Lao Army onto the concrete, cracking his skull open. When asked why he did it, Labbe told the police, “Call it payback. If you’re not going to do anything about these Asians in my country, then I will!” This was not considered a hate crime.

Would it have made a difference if Labbe had known who Phetakhoune was? Perhaps not, but history is filled with questions like this.

There are at least five major communities from Laos in the US today, from the Lao, Hmong, Khmu, Tai Dam and Mien and others whose histories are permanently intertwined with the American legacy.

While May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I’ve found it often a bittersweet month to celebrate because some Asian American activists I knew don’t feel non-citizens should be included in the lists of who helped build America.

“This is a month to celebrate Americans,” I was informed a few years back when I put forward the names of several Lao and Hmong veterans to be considered for a list of influential Asian Americans. That rankled as I look at the veterans from my homeland who gave so much to protect both Americans and Laos.

Several accounts suggest that Laos often sacrificed as many as 10 lives for every 1 American airman rescued from behind enemy lines. President Obama recently gave a posthumous Medal of Honor to a veteran who died in 1968 trying to rescue trapped undercover Americans operating a secret radar station installed on Mount Phou Pha Thi in Laos. But there are no medals or recognition for the Laotian veterans who died to defend that same installation or other Americans throughout the war.

Although they fought American enemies using American weapons and air support with American paramilitary advisors, operating from American-designed airbases to support secret American policies, Laotian veterans aren’t eligible for burial in Arlington Cemetery or veterans benefits allowing them employment, housing or education opportunities here in the US. Formally, this is within the letter of the law, but surely not the spirit of what makes America great.

The late Minnesota congressman Representative Bruce Vento once told me in a 1998 interview that there were many paths to citizenship, to becoming American. “Some are born into it. Some pass a test. And others earn it through service.” Those words stuck with me.

I celebrate Memorial Day, but I also know there is so much more we can do for those who fought in Americas secret wars as well, even starting with something as simple as listening to their stories.