Fleeing Home: Hmong Memories of the Secret War
The Secret War
Thousands of Hmong soldiers fought secretly under the CIA in Laos during the Vietnam conflict.
Hmong soldiers worked to protect the Ho Chi Min Trail, recover downed airmen and guard American bases.
A peace agreement was signed in 1973, ending the Vietnam War.
When U.S. withdrew its troops, communists jumped at the opportunity to invade Laos and its neighbors.
That left U.S. allies, like the Hmong people, in danger.
Thousands of Hmong civilians began to leave the mountains. Many died of hunger and disease.
Others were killed in communist ambushes.
Many fled for their lives by crossing the Mekong River to get to the border of Thailand.
About 100,000 Hmong lives were lost. One-third of the Hmong population left Laos in search for refuge.
From Refugee Camps to America
Refugee camps in Thailand had no electricity, running water and was severely crowded.
The first wave of Hmong civilians were able to come to the United States in 1976.
Hmong veterans in Minnesota currently do not receive state benefits, but lawmakers are keeping an eye on a proposed bill in Wisconsin that would give veteran status to Hmong soldiers.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs told CCX that under the law, the Hmong soldiers are not veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces because they served as an ally, and not in the U.S. Military.
Minnesota lawmakers were able to pass a new state holiday, marking May 14th as the Hmong Special Guerrilla Units Memorial Day.
Today a memorial also stands on the grounds of the state capitol, honoring the 35,000 Hmong soldiers that died. An estimate of 6,000 Hmong veterans are still alive.