ethnic minorities in laos

Injustice for Vietnam War Veterans

Recently, I learned something that I feel is incredibly unjust. 

As history teaches and many people in my hometown know, during the Vietnam War, Laos was decidedly neutral. However, the North Vietnamese forces were sneaking through Laos to conduct military strikes against South Vietnam. Clearly, Laotians didn’t like this happening because it meant possible danger, so they struck up a secret alliance with the U.S. CIA. The Hmong (the largest minority ethnic group in Laos) were a significant help and essential in the American fight. These soldiers rescued many American pilots, identified locations for American bomb strikes, fought Vietnamese communist forces, protected the jungle and mountain areas occupied by American forces, sabotaged Vietnamese supply lines, and gathered intelligence for the U.S. 

It is evident that without these Hmong soldiers, the loss of American soldiers would have been far greater. Laos suffered a casualty rate five times higher than the rate experienced by American soldiers. Hmong soldiers risked their very own lives for the lives of American soldiers. How honorable is that? Many American citizens had the Hmong to thank for being able to see their loved ones come home safely from the Vietnam War. 

Unfortunately, after the Americans abandoned Laos, communists gained control of the country. They destroyed and killed off so many villages. Only 75% of the Hmong in Laos survived the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Of these survivors, one-third of these people decided to do the dangerous in order to keep themselves safe. They fled to Thailand. I’ve heard stories of how parents had to drug their own babies in order to keep them from crying and revealing their location to the communists just to get across the boarder. The treks were awful.

As many people began to realize, Thailand refugee camps are no place to raise a family, so with the help of private American organizations, some Hmong families were flown to America to give them safety as a thank you for their remarkable role in the American fight. I’m going to say it again: these were private organizations. The U.S. government played no role in helping Hmong soldiers and their families at all after the Vietnam war despite any promises that may have been made. Is that really how we thank our allies?

I am a citizen of the United States of America. I happen to live in one of the few areas that has a high population of Hmong-Americans. It may seem insignificant when I tell you that my state’s population is 1% Hmong, but as for my city, it is so much greater. My graduating high school class was 19.5% Hmong-American. I know people who have incredible family stories: their grandparents were born in Laos and fought for the Americans then fled to Thailand, their parents were born in Thailand then moved to America, and they themselves were born in America and are beginning to start their own families.

What I found to be shocking and unjust recently was that even though these Hmong people who are Vietnam War veterans that had fought for the U.S., risked their lives for American citizens, and are now U.S. veterans, they are not considered Vietnam War veterans by our American government, and therefore, they receive no benefits. This may seem like a tedious problem to the majority of America, but to me, and to my city, it is an outraging problem and we wish to thank them and for the United States Government to treat them as the heroes they are. These are beautiful, brave people who continue to inspire me everyday.