Vigil held in honor of General Vang Pao

FRESNO, Calif.

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More than a hundred people braved the cold in Merced Friday night. Many held candles as they mourned the passing of their beloved general.

"The Hmong people revere the General a lot. And no matter what happens they will come and support him." said Tom Hang.

A candlelight display is something the Hmong community adopted from their American counterparts. A more traditional show of support took place inside the center when mourners burned incense and bowed down in front of General Vang's picture to honor him.

Crystal Thao is a second generation Hmong-American who never experienced the horrors of war her parent's generation did. Still she recognizes what General Vang Pao provided for her family and thousands of others.

"If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here like right now having my education, living here." said Thao.

Those who served under the general in Southeast Asia stood tall and proud next to his shrine. This man through a translator says what made the general an iconic figure was that he loved every one of them as if they were his own child.

"We feel like he is our father. And now we have feel very lost in that we have lost a father and our future is very uncertain without father." said Nhia Lee Yang.

Another uncertainty is who will follow in the general's footsteps and lead the American Hmong community moving forward? Jonas Vang who serves as the center's advisor says the question has been asked and has gone unanswered for many many years.

"Things have to be pretty much up to God to send whomever will come down to help the Hmong but the general will not be replaced for sure. He's irreplaceable." said Vang.

Roughly 8,000 Hmong live in the Merced area. Hundreds if not thousands are expected to make the drive south to Fresno for General Vang Pao's funeral service.

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