Honoring the life of General Vang Pao

FRESNO, Calif.

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"We one hundred percent support American CIA. That's why when communists take over Laos, we have no choice. It's do or die that's all. We have to go with General Vang Pao."

Nelson Vang is Director of the group United Hmong International. He was a child soldier in the jungles of Laos, and fled with his brother after his parents were killed. He believes General Vang Pao saved his people from extermination by leading them here. "He's the one we call the pilgrim into America and that's why we respect his leadership, that's why carry on his name and he is truly the Hmong leader in the 20th Century."

The nearly 50 thousand Hmong living in the Central Valley were drawn here initially by the opportunities to farm. But most have moved into jobs, professions and businesses.

Meng Vang's parents came here from a refugee camp. He was born in Fresno. Owns a restaurant and credits General Vang Pao for giving him the opportunity. "I'm a young guy here, 29 and I own a business, what they sacrificed during the war has given us opportunity as education entrepreneurs. We've come so far because of that. Deep down everybody has that deep, deep respect for Vang Pao."

The General's supporters are now hoping he gets the respect of the United States Government. A movement is underway to have him buried at Arlington National Cemetery, an honor reserved for citizens who served their country.

By phone on his way back from Washington DC Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno told us he is willing to work on getting a waiver to allow the burial, if those are the wishes of the General's family.

Jim Costa: "A burial in Arlington is an honored recognition. Still there have been waivers in the past. I think General Vang Pao deserves consideration of that honor."

The Hmong were re-settled in this country through actions by both Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter as an acknowledgement of their service to the United States.

It's estimated more than 120 thousand Hmong men, women and children were killed by communist forces as a result of General Vang Pao's alliance with the United States.

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