Hundreds attend vigil for Hmong Leader

FRESNO, Calif.

The former guerilla fighter is treated with God-like status by his people since his death.

Veterans who served with the General in the jungles of Laos during the Vietnam War, were joined by the young costumed royalty of the local Hmong community.

John Lao, voted "Mr. Hmong" appeared in costume with several present and former "Miss Hmong's."

He said, "I'm honored to be here and this gathering right here is to honor our General Vang Pao, and along with everyone among us today or tonight everyone is happy to come here and celebrate and this event is where everyone gets to come together and mourn together and show their happiness or their sadness."

There was a great deal of sadness and tears as this revered leader was remember not just by his countrymen, but by members of the Fresno Community.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Vang Pao deserves credit for reducing crime by leading Hmong parents to get active in dismantling the once feared Southeast Asian gangs in Fresno.

"I believe he has had an impact not only in Fresno but across the nation in insuring that Hmong kids get an education and that they not be involved in criminal activity. And we've seen a decline. A significant decline in the involvement of Hmong's in gangs within our community over the years," Dyer said.

This was one in a series of vigils held to honor the General. Preparations are now underway for his funeral which begins on Friday.

Funeral services for General Vang Pao begin Friday at the Fresno Convention Center. They'll continue through February 9th.

What's still unknown is where the General will be buried. No word yet on whether the U.S Government will honor the request of the General's family to allow him to be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

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