HB56 ensures the contributions of Hmong Americans who served the US will never be forgotten
ANCHORAGE – Today in Alaska, Hmong veterans who fought alongside the United States during the Vietnam War are being recognized across the State of Alaska.
House Bill 56 passed earlier this year and establishes May 15 of every year as Hmong American Veterans Day to ensure that the military contributions of Hmong people to our country are never forgotten.
Mountain View resident Pasert Lee is a Hmong-American veteran. Along with his wife, Mai Xiong, and other members of Hmong Alaska Community Incorporated, he advocated for years to see that the contributions of Hmong veterans are permanently honored.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed and derailed many pieces of legislation that are significant to Alaskans,” said Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), who championed HB56. “I’m grateful that a bi-partisan effort was successful to get this bill to the floor to the Senate for a unanimous vote of support. The Hmong people put their faith in the United States government, which promised them citizenship and veteran status after the Vietnam War.”
“Recognizing our former allies today honors their sacrifice and commitment to a better world. I’m proud of my Hmong Alaska neighbors and friends and all they have done and continue to do to build a better Alaska,” added Sen. Tom Begich, a co-sponsor of the bill who also represents Mountain View.
Representative Tarr also acknowledged the work of Sen. Josh Revak and Rep. Laddie Shaw, both veterans, who played a role in carrying the bill.
An estimated 260,000 Hmong-Americans live in the United States, with an estimated 3,500 Hmong-Americans living in Alaska. Many of these Alaskans are veterans and all have been impacted by the legacy of the Hmong fighting for the United States in the Vietnam War.
Beginning in the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency began recruiting Hmong people to help U.S. soldiers in the fight against communism. Between 1962 and 1975, about 12,000 Hmong soldiers died fighting against the Laotians. After the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, the Lao kingdom was overthrown by the communist party and the Hmong became targets.
The Hmong people were displaced and forced to relocate from Laos to Thailand, with some ending up in UN refugee camps. It has been estimated that 30,000 Hmong were killed by the communists while trying to reach refuge in Thailand. All in all, over 100,000 Hmong people died as a result of both the Vietnam and “Secret” Wars.
Alaska House Majority