More than 40 years after the end of the "secret war" in Laos against North Vietnamese forces, Hmong and Laotians who fought alongside the U.S. and their advocates are pushing for a bill that would allow the veterans to be buried in U.S. national cemeteries.
The Hmong Veterans' Service Recognition Act was introduced in Congress in December 2017 by Democrat Rep. Jim Costa, who has previously sponsored four similar measures. It would allow some Hmong- and Laotian-American veterans to be buried in U.S. national cemeteries, excluding Arlington National Cemetery. It is cosponsored by Democrat Rep. Raul Ruiz and Republican Reps. Don Young and Paul Cook.
"The purpose of the legislation is to provide the appropriate honor to these aging veterans, these soldiers, who fought for their own independence and freedom and aligned themselves with the United States in the 1960s and early 1970s," said Costa, whose district includes Fresno, California, which is home to more than 20,000 people of Hmong descent, according to the 2010 Census.
During the Laotian Civil War, the CIA recruited Hmong and Lao soldiers to fight with against communist forces. At the end of the war, those who came to the U.S. as refugees were provided an expedited pathway to citizenship through naturalization.
Philip Smith — Washington, D.C., director and national liaison of Lao Veterans of America, a Laotian- and Hmong-American nonprofit veterans organization — called the bill a historic piece of legislation that would provide long overdue honor and recognition to Lao- and Hmong-American veterans who served during the Vietnam War.