Lao Veterans of America

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Lao Veterans of America describes itself as a non-profit,non-partisan, non-governmental, veterans organization that represents Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served in the U.S. clandestine war in the Kingdom of Laos during the Vietnam War as well as their refugee families in the United States.[1]

Vietnam War and the Kingdom of Laos[edit]

Members of the Lao Veterans of America (LVA) served in the U.S. clandestine war in the Kingdom of Laos during the Vietnam conflict. These veterans served in the U.S. Secret Army in Laos and are largely recruits from the ethnic Hmong people and other Laotian tribal minority peoples. They engaged in combat operations, and provided support, for key U.S. covert air and ground operations including Operation Barrel Roll against the North Vietnamese Army and communist Pathet Lao forces. Laotian and Hmong soldiers, first backed and armed by President John F. Kennedy, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and U.S. Department of Defense, also interdicted North Vietnamese forces and supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

American clandestine and Special Forces advisers[edit]

CIA clandestine and U.S. military leaders, officers, operatives and advisers to the U.S. Secret Army in Laos included notable U.S. national security figures including: William Colby, Richard Helms, Theodore Shackley, Anthony Poshepny, Lawrence Devlin and others.[2] The Lao Veterans of America's members worked in cooperation with many of these figures during the Vietnam War in Laos and its aftermath.[3][4]

Tens of thousands of Laotian and Hmong veterans, and their families, fled the communist Pathet Lao takeover of Laos in 1975 as refugees, and were eventually granted political asylum, and resettled in the United States, including Lao Hmong leader General Vang Pao.

Philip Smith, serves as the Washington, D.C. Director and Liaison for the Lao Veterans of America, Inc., and has advocated on a variety of issues for the Laotian and Hmong-American community as well as representing the organization in the U.S. Congress and on Capitol Hill. Smith has acted as Washington, D.C. Director for the LVA since the early 1990s.[5][6]

Laos Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery[edit]

On May 14–15, 1997, twenty-two years after the end of the Vietnam War in Laos, a monument to the Lao and Hmong veterans and their American advisers who served in the Kingdom in Laos was during the Vietnam War was finally authorized by Arlington National Cemetery. The Lao Veterans of America, its Washington, D.C. Director, Philip Smith, and others, as well as tens of thousands of LVA members and their families, dedicated the monument in Arlington National Cemetery.[7] The LVA's Laotian and Hmong veterans also received national recognition at the Vietnam War Memorial for their covert service.[8] It was the first time that the United States acknowledged its covert role in Laos and the role of the Lao and Hmong veterans who served in the "U.S. Secret Army."[9][10][11]

Thousands of Lao and Hmong-American veterans from across the United States and their families participated in the Arlington and Washington, D.C., national recognition ceremonies.[12]

The Lao Veterans of America, in cooperation with The Centre for Public Policy Analysis, and others, continues to host annual veterans memorial ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and Arlington National Cemetery at the Laos Memorial, each May, to honor the Lao and Hmong-American veterans, their refugee families, and their American U.S. Special Forces and clandestine advisers.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

Honorary citizenship[edit]

In 2000, after a 10 year battle in the U.S. Congress, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act of 2000 to grant honorary citizenship to Lao and Hmong-American veterans of the U.S. "Secret Army." [20] [21][22] The bill was introduced by U.S. Congressman Bruce Vento of St. Paul, Minnesota. The Lao Veterans of America, and its Washington Director Philip Smith, engaged in a decade long bipartisan effort in the U.S. Congress, and with Democratic and Republican Administrations in the White House, to promote the bill's passage and final implementation.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29] The legislation took years to gain bipartisan U.S. Congressional approval before it was signed into law. The LVA and Philip Smith worked to organize policy events and rallies on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Virginia, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and other states in support of the legislation.[30][31][32] Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and a bipartisan coalition, introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate.[33]

Congressman Vento died of lung cancer the year the bill was signed into law. The Lao Veterans of America led efforts to memorialize Congressman Vento's legacy and assistance to the Lao- and Hmong veterans and their refugee families.[34]

An additional bill to assist Lao- and Hmong-American widows of veterans was later introduced and passed into law with the Lao Veterans of America again advocating in Congress and Washington, D.C., for passage of the legislation.[35]

Opposition to human rights violations[edit]

The Lao Veterans of America, and its Washington D.C. Director Philip Smith, have been active in Washington, D.C., and policy-making circles in staunch opposition to human rights violations directed against the Lao and Hmong people by the government of Laos and Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV), as well as the forced repatriation of Lao and Hmong refugees from Thailand back to the communist government in Laos that they fled. In the 1990s and 2000s, the LVA participated in research missions, along with Members of Congress, and the Centre for Public Policy Analysis to Lao and Hmong refugee camps along the Mekong River and the Buddhist temple of Wat Tham Krabok to help document human rights violations under the Marxist regime in Laos and to seek to halt and reverse the forced repatriation policy directed against political refugees and asylum seekers in Thailand and Southeast Asia.[36][37] The LVA has raised repeated concerns about the ongoing role of the SRV and Vietnamese People's Army (VPA in support of the Pathet Lao Marxist government in Laos, especially with regard to illegal logging, human rights violations, military attacks against Hmong civilians and political and religious dissident groups, and religious persecution.

The Lao Veterans of America and its Washington Director Philip Smith have raised concerns about Laotian- and Hmong-American citizens who have been abducted or disappeared in Laos at the hand of communist Lao police or military officials including Houa Ly of the Green Bay area of Wisconsin and Michael Vang of Fresno, California who disappeared in April 1999 along the border of Thailand and Laos.[38] Former U.S. Congressman Mark Andrew Green, former Congressman George Radanovich, and former Congressman Tom Lantos, held various hearings in the U.S. Congress about the Lao government's role in abducting the two Hmong-American men and other serious human rights violations in Marxist Laos and Thailand. As of 2013, the two Hmong-American men, who are U.S. citizens, are still missing at the hands of communist officials in Laos along with other U.S. citizens, including Mr. Hakit Yang, of St. Paul, Minnesota and additional two of his colleagues, Mr. Cong Shi Neng Yang and Trillion Yunhaison.[39] Mr. Hakit Yang and his two colleagues from Minnesota were held at Phonthong Prison in Vientiane, Laos. Human rights advocates Kerry and Kay Danes, Amnesty International, The Centre for Public Policy Analysis, and the LVA helped to draw awareness to their plight and human rights violations in Laos directed against the Lao and Hmong people.

Burial Honors Bill[edit]

Members of Congress, and the Lao Veterans of America, are seeking to further honor Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served during the Vietnam War and are requesting that the U.S. government authorize these veterans, upon their passing, to be buried in U.S. national veterans cemeteries administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Bills are pending in the U.S. Congress for this purpose introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Congressman Jim Costa of California.[40][41][42][43][44][45]

In May and July 2013, the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, led by Senators Bernie Sanders and Richard Burr, held a full committee hearing of the "Lao Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill." The potential Senate passage of legislation addressing, and studying, the plight of the Lao and Hmong veterans of the "U.S. Secret Army" in Laos seeking burial honors at U.S. national veterans cemeteries has been reported in Washington,D.C. and on Capitol Hill [46]

Philip Smith, provided testimony on behalf of the Lao Veterans of America at the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.[47]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lao Veterans of America, Inc. http://wwww.laoveteransofamerica.org
  2. ^ Scheets, Gary, Washington Times (8 May 1996) "Refugees from Laos mourn a friend, Colby: Tribe worked closely with ex-CIA leader." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-56826837.html
  3. ^ Loeb, Vernon, Washington Post (15 October 2000), "CIA Figure Lobbies for Secret Warriors' Widows; Measure to Aid Naturalization of Lao and Hmong Spouses Is Lodged in Senate" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-555885.html
  4. ^ Scheets, Gary, Washington Times (8 May 1996) "Refugees from Laos mourn a friend, Colby: Tribe worked closely with ex-CIA leader." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-56826837.html
  5. ^ Zeller, Shawn, Nationan Journal, (Feb. 20, 1999) "From the K Street Corridor: Vietnam Warriors"
  6. ^ The Economist, (Dec. 1, 2001) "They earned it; Hmong-Americans"
  7. ^ Davis, Charles Q., Washington Times (24 August 1997) "Repaying a debt"
  8. ^ Hamburger, Tom, Minneapolis Star Tribune (15 May 1997) "Hmong vets, who fought in secret, are honored..." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62610224.html
  9. ^ Branigin, William, Washington Post (15 May 1997)"U.S. Allies in 'Secret War'; 'Long Overdue' Honors Go to Lao, Hmong Vets" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-728766.html
  10. ^ Barber, Ben, Washington Times (14 May 1997) "Hmong veterans to receive medals: Laotian people became refugees after helping U.S. fight Vietnam War" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-56811834.html
  11. ^ Asian Week (29 May 1997)"Hmong Hold War Recognition in Washington" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-3980026.html
  12. ^ Smith, Mary Lynn, Minneapolis Star Tribune,(11 May 1997) "Hmong veterans from Twin Cities heading to D.C. to attend tribute; Refugees back bill to ease citizenship requirements" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62610025.html
  13. ^ Madigan, Sean, Minneapolis Star Tribune, (10 May 2000) "Hmong to honor fallen soldiers and advocates for veterans' citizenship" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62412375.html
  14. ^ China Weekly News (22 June 2010) "Laos, Hmong Community Concludes National Memorial Ceremonies, Policy Events." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-229137401.html
  15. ^ Defense and Aerospace Week, (29 May 2013) "Laos, Hmong Veterans of Vietnam War Honored At National Ceremonies." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-331528820.html
  16. ^ PRNEWSWIRE, www.prnewswire.com (8 May 2007) "Laos, Hmong Veterans Memorial Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery" http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/laos-hmong-veterans-memorial-ceremony-at-arlington-national-cemetery-58047832.html
  17. ^ Nylen, Leah, The Capital Times & Medill News Service,(9 May 2007) "HMONG VETS MARK ANNIVERSARY" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-163178531.html
  18. ^ Doyle, Michael, McClatchy News / Fresno Bee (10 May 2013) "The Hmong, Vietnam era allies, honor their dead from a long-ago war" http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/10/190940/the-hmong-vietnam-era-allies-honor.html#.UerbJG3c2E4
  19. ^ Business Wire, www.businesswire.com, (12 May 2013) " Laos, Hmong Veterans of Vietnam War Honored At National Ceremonies" http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130512005048/en/Laos-Hmong-Veterans-Vietnam-War-Honored-National
  20. ^ Washington Post, (3 May 2000), "Washington In Brief: House Backs Help For Hmong in Tests"
  21. ^ Madigan, Sean, Minneapolis Star Tribune, (10 May 2000) "Hmong to honor fallen soldiers and advocates for veterans' citizenship" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62412375.html
  22. ^ Madigan, Sean, Minneapolis Star Tribune,(27 May 2000) "Clinton signs citizenship bill for Hmong veterans" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62413756.html
  23. ^ Frommer, Frederic, Associated Press (AP), (2 May 2000) "House Approves Hmong Citizen Bill" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-26366831.html
  24. ^ Doyle, Michael, and Madigan, Sean, Minneapolis Star Tribune (24 May 2000) "Hmong citizenship bill wins final congressional OK".http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62413351.html
  25. ^ Washington Post (3 May 2000) "Washington in Brief: House Backs Help For Hmong in Tests" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-523775.html
  26. ^ Frommer, Frederic, Associated Press, (23 May 2000) "Citizenship Bill Passes Congress" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-26753643.html
  27. ^ Wisconsin State Journal (24 May 2000) "BILL TO HELP HMONG GETS FINAL OK IT WOULD MAKE IT EASIER FOR MANY LAOTIANS TO GET U.S. CITIZENSHIP." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-69303152.html
  28. ^ Seattle Post Intelligencer (24 May 2000)"BILL TO EASE CITIZENSHIP FOR LAOTIAN ALLIES BACKED" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-63390423.html
  29. ^ The Economist (1 December 2001) "They earned it; Hmong-Americans.(Citizenship for Hmong refugees)" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-80511559.html
  30. ^ Barber, Ben, Washington Times, (15 May 1998), "Hmong army veterans ask for U.S. citizenship"
  31. ^ Gordon, Greg, Minneapolis Star Tribue, (12 June 1998) "House panel acts to help Hmong vets who fought for CIA gain citizenship." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-62580839.html
  32. ^ Gordon, Greg and Leslie, Lourdes Medrano, Star Tribune, Minneapolis (16 August 2001) "Vets getting their due; But glitch in law delays citizenship for other Hmong"
  33. ^ Washington Post, (3 May 2000), "Washington In Brief: House Backs Help For Hmong in Tests"
  34. ^ Donohue, Andrew, Minneapolis Star Tribune (20 October 2000)"Hmong, Lao communities remember Bruce Vento..." http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-66244428.html
  35. ^ Loeb, Vernon, Washington Post (15 October 2000) "CIA Figure Lobbies for Secret Warriors' Widows; Measure to Aid Naturalization of Lao and Hmong Spouses Is Lodged in Senate" http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-555885.html
  36. ^ Washington, Wayne, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), (17 April 1996), "Agencies say influx of Hmong will go smoothly".
  37. ^ Barber, Ben, Washington Times (22 April 1996), "3,500 Laotians head for U.S. after 20 years in Thailand."
  38. ^ Kaufman, Marc, Washington Post, (29 November 1999), "Missing Tourists as Reprisal Victims? Laotian Refugees in U.S. Suspect Disappearance of Hmong Men Was No Accident."
  39. ^ Baca, Maria Elena & Ford, Tom, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), (4 September 2007), "St. Paul families fear for 3 Hmong men held in Laos"
  40. ^ Business Wire, businesswire.com, (28 July 2010) "Laos, Hmong Veterans of Vietnam War Honored by Congress with National Burial Bill" http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20100728006607/en/Laos-Hmong-Veterans-Vietnam-War-Honored-Congress
  41. ^ Scoop Independent News, Auckland, New Zealand,(23 October 2011) "Laos, Hmong Veterans of Vietnam War Fight For Burial Honors" http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1110/S00673/laos-hmong-veterans-of-vietnam-war-fight-for-burial-honors.htm
  42. ^ Business Wire, businesswire.com, (7 February 2013) "Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate" http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130207006579/en/Laos-Hmong-Veterans-Burial-Honors-Bill-Introduced
  43. ^ Business Wire, businesswire.com, (16 July 2013) "Senate Slated to Address Laos, Hmong Veterans Burial Honors" http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130716006692/en/Senate-Slated-Address-Laos-Hmong-Veterans-Burial
  44. ^ Simon, Richard, Los Angeles Times, (6 February 2013) "Hmong soldiers who aided U.S. seek burial in national cemeteries" http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/06/nation/la-na-nn-hmong-soldier-cemeteries-20130206
  45. ^ Doyle, Michael, McClatchy News / Fresno Bee )10 May 2013) "The Hmong, Vietnam era allies, honor their dead from a long-ago war" http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/05/10/190940/the-hmong-vietnam-era-allies-honor.html#.UerbJG3c2E4
  46. ^ Business Wire, (29 July 2013) "U.S. Senate Nears Passage of Veterans Bill Honoring Laos, Hmong Veterans" http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130729006544/en/U.S.-Senate-Nears-Passage-Veterans-Bill-Honoring
  47. ^ U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. Senate, (15 May 2013), Washington, D.C.