Posted on Tue, Feb. 08, 2011
last updated: February 08, 2011 11:28:17 AM
The Army and Washington bureaucrats have decided that there's no room for Gen. Vang Pao at Arlington National Cemetery, providing a reminder that America often distances itself from friends.
When the United States saw Vietnam as the front line in the battle against the spread of communism and had few friends in the battle, Vang and the Hmong stood up.
And it didn't matter that their deadly war had to remain a secret war for political reasons outside the jungles of Laos. They fought for 15 years -- the general leading his men and, in later years, a guerrilla army that included young teens.
Their mission was to battle the North Vietnamese on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and to rescue American pilots. They did their jobs. They saved American lives. And because they fought, more Americans didn't have to.
The general's military career, which included fighting the Japanese during World War II and alongside the French in the First Indochina War in the 1950s, and his loyalty to America's interests should have earned him an Arlington burial.
But his service didn't end with the fall of Saigon. He was the leader of the Hmong -- a people without a country -- for nearly his entire adult life. He lobbied for them as they were killed and persecuted in Laos, as they fled to refugee camps in Thailand and as they resettled in the United States and other parts of the world.
Vang died on American soil, a leader of an ancient tribal people uprooted from remote villages and thrust into a modern Western world for which they were not prepared.
To read the complete column, visit www.fresnobee.com.