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Dedicate My Life to The Hmong: General Vang Pao

Dedicate My Life to The Hmong

The year 1941 was a year of heavy frost, resulting in meager harvest in Xiengkhoung Province, Laos. A White Hmong boy had taken his precious black gelding on a day's journey from his village to the tojxeem to pay a debt that his family owed. There, at the tojxeem's house, he saw many other Hmong that had also come to pay their taxes. The boy saw "an elderly Green Hmong couple who couldn't pay their tax...they didn't have enough, they also brought a pig." The tojxeem told them it still wasn't enough; they had to go home and bring more.

The boy's eyes filled with tears. He thought to himself: I also have the fortune to be born a Hmong; I am already thirteen years old. I will take time to think hard to see what I can do for the Hmong, so that the Hmong can escape this burden.

"That was what made me instantly decide to dedicate my life to the Hmong," says General Vang Pao.

Looking for Ways to Advance the Hmong

Returning from the tojxeem, the young Vang Pao began to see Hmong fracturing and suffering with new eyes. "The Hmong had always been refugees, fleeing their homelands. They broke into small groups," says Gen. Vang Pao. "And one group settled on this mountain, another in that valley. They faced many hardships. They didn't even have salt to eat."

The young Vang Pao set out to make changes. "Returning from that experience, I set out to gain an education. I also accepted the responsibility of helping the Hmong. Whatever ways we would gain knowledge and wisdom; whatever ways we would gain self-sufficiency, shelter, wealth, position, good reputation; I sought those ways for the Hmong to follow."

After three years of school, he started as a translator and messenger for the French, to "help fellow Hmong citizens." A few years later, he earned a position in the Lao Gendarmerie, a paramilitary force commanded by French officers. "I earned first place in corporal course; and first place in sergeant course. After that, I worked for three-four years," he recalls. He proved himself to be an exceptional soldier and leader, rising to the rank of sergeant-major.

"After that I went to Officer Candidate School (OCS)." He successfully graduated from OCS to become the first Hmong officer in the Royal Lao Army (RLA). His success opened up an avenue for other Hmong to advance in the military--an important social improvement for the Hmong.

Hmong Achievements in Laos

Gen. Vang Pao says that one of the first Hmong achievements in Laos was being "able to protect the country." In 1962, Colonel Vang Pao was promoted to General and given responsibility over Military Region II (MR II) whose numbers were close to 140,000 soldiers. Most of these soldiers were home militias, but he had an elite core of 12,000 Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU) soldiers and 4,000 RLA soldiers. With the formation of the Hmong SGU army, many Hmong officers advanced into command and leadership positions of the regiments and battalions. Other Hmong filled important roles such as fighter pilots or interpreters and liaisons with the American advisors and trainers.

MR II soldiers engaged the vastly more numerous Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army units throughout northeastern Laos, but "the biggest battle for Laos was at Thong Hai Hin, the plain northeast of Long Cheng," recalls Gen. Vang Pao. It was a fifteen-year stalemate where "you captured this place, and then the enemy would come and capture that other place; always pushing at each other." Finally, "in the year '70, I decided to capture and hold Thong Hai Hin. So in '70 we captured it, '71 we held it, then it was lost in the year '72."

The second achievement of the Hmong in Laos was "the way in which the Hmong were educated and given wisdom; taught skills and knowledge; taught self-sufficiency," says Gen. Vang Pao.

With the new army, Gen. Vang Pao needed a new headquarters base. He decided on a valley called Long Cheng. "The main reason for the success was Long Cheng. It was a narrow valley...and the roads approaching it were few, so I decided to relocate [headquarters] to Long Cheng...so that is wasn't easily accessible, and hard for Nyab Laj to approach."

In addition to being a military base, Long Cheng was also a cultural, economic, and educational base. "The reason Hmong had a future was because of Long Cheng. Schools, hospitals, trades, all manner of [Hmong] skills and knowledge originated from there," says Gen. Vang Pao.

Laying a Foundation for Hmong Success in the United States

In 1975, when Laos was lost to the Communists and Gen. Vang Pao first arrived in the U. S., he felt that his first duty was to try to protect his people, so he went to meet President Gerald R. Ford, who had just assumed the presidency after President Richard Nixon resigned, and asked for asylum for the Hmong. "President Ford didn't acknowledge the Hmong and Laotians; he only acknowledged Cambodians and [South] Vietnamese," he recalls. "I wasn't satisfied, so I said [to Pres. Ford]: the Hmong and Laotians and South Vietnamese and Cambodians sailed the same boat to fight North Vietnam. If you say otherwise, then you are not just. So he said: don't worry, General, I will direct the State Department to give the Hmong refugee status."

His next action was to study how other groups of immigrants from Europe, Asia, and Central America had successfully integrated into American society. "I thought carefully; studied other groups of people. What did they do to live successfully in the U.S.? I found that they have non-profits [organizations] to help them," says Gen. Vang Pao. He wanted to set up programs to help the Hmong adapt: to learn English, to acquire job skills, to access different resources to help them start their new lives here. So he set up the first Hmong non-profit called Lao Family Community in Santa Ana, California. Soon he opened up other branches throughout the U.S. where there were concentrations of Hmong populations.

He started the Hmong Council to bring Hmong people together, to mediate between the 18 clans. Next, he started Lao Veterans to highlight Hmong and Laotian contribution to the Vietnam War, to remind young Hmong as well as Americans of the sacrifice Hmong made. Then he looked back at Laos and saw the oppression that the Hmong left behind in Laos were suffering, and he started Lao Human Rights to speak up for them. Soon, other Hmong non-profits started up and strengthened Hmong communities further. All these organizations have helped the Hmong to adapt and become successful in the U. S.

Looking toward the Future

As Gen. Vang Pao pauses to take stock of the present and ponders the future, he is proud of the Hmong. "The Hmong, whether it's the pursuit of knowledge, of wealth, of position and power, the Hmong work very hard to achieve them. Everyone is pushing very hard on their own," he says. "The ones who work on the land work very hard; the ones who work on trade also work very hard; boys and girls who attend school, for the most part, study very hard."

But no matter how hard we work or how successful we are as individuals, the general says, we won't be as effective or powerful as a group. To participate effectively in American society, he advises us to come together as a people, not to bargain with politicians, but to effectively focus our concerns, so that "whoever is in charge of government - Democrat or Republican," will notice us and hear our unified voice.

He advises that, to get along, we Hmong should "be patient, respect each other, don't poke each other in the eye." We should "form friendships, don't exclude one another, don't be jealous of each other." We should also take personal responsibility, "don't abuse drugs, don't abuse alcohol."

As a group, says Gen. Vang Pao, we Hmong should come together and try to find workable solutions to four immediate problems: 1). Supporting and strengthening organizations like the Hmong Council and Hmong National Development so they can unify us, 2). Establishing senior homes for the elderly Hmong "so they won't be so depressed," 3). Establishing facilities for Hmong funereal rites to cut down the ruinous cost, 4). Streamlining and standardizing Hmong rituals, such as whether to pay "txiv qeej, txiv ruag" or not.

Gen. Vang Pao says, "Right now, power rests with the younger generation." They are the ones who will unite, inspire, and lead the Hmong in the future. They are the ones who will dedicate their lives to the Hmong.

As for himself, the general feels he has fulfilled the pledge made 67 years ago when he was a thirteen-year-old boy: "My life and my energy, I have absolutely given to the Hmong; 100%!"

Muab Txoj Sia Rau Hmoob

Nyob rau xyoo 1941, muaj ib tug menyuam tub Hmoob cab nws tus txiv sam nees dub coj mus ntaus nqe them tojxeem. Lub sijhawm ntawd cov Fabkis twb tsis sau se lawm tabsis cov nom Hmoob tseem sau. Nws mus ib hnub kev nkaus thiaj li mus txog rau hauv tojxeem tsev. Tsis yog nws xwb uas tuaj them nqi rau tojxeem. Nws kuj pom muaj ib khub niam txiv Hmoob ntsuab tuaj them se rau tojxeem thiab. Nkawv qhov se them rau tojxeem yog raug 4 lag thiab 5 txiag yeeb. Vim yog xyoo ntawd kuj yog ib xyoo los te loj heev ua rau tej qoob loo tuaj tsis zoo "ces nkawv nkawj tau 4 lag coj tuaj them tshuav 5 txiag xwb. Yog li nkawv kuj "cab tau ib tug npua 4 cheej rau" tabsis kuj tseem tsis zoo tojxeem siab thiab. Tojxeem thiaj hais rau nkawv tias, "nam npua los tso rau hov ov, rov mus nrhiav 5 txiag yeeb tuaj thiab." Thaum pom li no lawm, thiaj ua rau tus menyuam tub Hmoob ntawd mob siab ib zag. "Kuv los kuag muag kiag," nws nco tau. Yog li ntawd nws thiaj los xav hais tias, "aub, kuv twb muaj txoj hmoo yug los ua ib tug neeg Hmoob thiab; twb muaj 13 xyoo lawm thiab; kuv los pw xav zoo zoo seb kuv puas ua ab tsi tau rau cov Hmoob es kom Hmoob dim Hmoob tej txim no."

Thaum ntawd los txog tamsim no twb yog 67 xyoo nkaus lawm. "Yog qhov ntawd nawb, qhov uas ua rau kuv mob siab es txiav txim los muab txoj sia rau Hmoob kiag," Nais Phoo Vaj Pov hais li.

Nrhiav Kev Vammeej Rau Hmoob

"Hmoob ib txwm poob teb poob chaw. Nws sib tawg ua pab ua pawg," Nais Phoo Vaj Pov piav. "Ces ib leeg mus nyob lub roob; ib leeg mus nyob lub ha. Mas Hmoob txomnyem heev; ntsev twb tsi muaj noj."

Tomqab nws pom Hmoob kev txomnyem tom tojxeem tsev tag, nws pib taug txoj kev tshiab. "Kuv tig rov qab los ces kuv mus kawm ntawv...Ces kuv yeej los txais (lav xaib) pab Hmoob; zaj twg Hmoob yuav txawj yuav ntse, zaj twg Hmoob yuav tau noj tau haus, yuav muaj nyiaj muaj txiaj, muaj vaj muaj tse, tau nrog luag ua nom ua tswv, tau lub suab lub npe zoo, ces kuv yeej nrhiav qhov ntawd rau Hmoob li," nws hais.

Nws kawm ntawv tau peb xyoos ces Yivpooj (Japanese) tuaj txeeb lub tebchaws tawm tsa Fabkis. Yog li, tus tubhluas Vaj Pov thiaj muab nws txoj kev kawm tso tseg, tawm los pib ua ib tug tub txhais lus thiab tub xa xov rau Fabkis, los "pab laj mej pej xeem Hmoob" tiv thaiv lub tebchaws.

Ob peb xyoo tom qab ntawd, lawv txais nws mus rau hauv Lao Gendarmerie, ib pab tubrog uas Fabkis ua cov tswjfwm. "Kuv mus kawm corporal los tau thib ib; mus kawm sergeant los tau thib ib. Ces tauj ntawd, los ua hauj lwm peb-plaub xyoos," nws nco tau. Lub caij ntawd, lawv pom tias nws mob siab thiab muaj peevxwm. Yog li, lawv thiaj xa nws mus kawm "Officer Candidate School (OCS)." Nws kawm tag OCS ces tawm los ua Hmoob thawj tug coj tub rog (officer) nyob hauv Royal Lao Army (RLA).

Hmoob Kev Vammeej Nyob Tebchaws Lostsuas

Nai Phoo Vaj Pov hais tias Hmoob kev vammeej nyob Tebchaws Lostsua qhov "ib, yog peb los thaiv lub tebchaws." Thaum xyoo 1962, Kauslusnia (Colonel) Vaj Pov raug nce qib mus rau xab Nai Phoo; tsoom fwv thiaj muab kiag sab tub rog Phaj 2 (Military Region II) rau nws tswj. Xam tag nrho cov tub tes tub taw uas Nais Phoo Vaj Pov tswj nyob rau sab phaj 2 muaj li ntawm 140,000 leej. "Cov uas tua rog zoo zoo mas muaj li 12,000 tus - peb cov Hmoob," Nais Phoo Vaj Pov hais li. Tsis tas li, thaum Hmoob los ua SGU lawm kuj muaj ntau tus Hmoob sawv los tuav hauj lwm loj thiab nyob rau qib siab.

Cov tub rog nyob sab Phaj 2 tiv thaiv lub tebchaws tawm tsam nrog cov Kooj Sam Lostsuas (Pathet Lao) thiab tsoom tubrog Nyab Laj Qaum Teb (North Vietnamese Army) thoob plaws sab hnub tuaj ntawm qaum Lostsuas teb. "Ces peb ua haujlwm tiv thaiv lub tebchaws Lostsua thiab txiav txoj kev Haum Cis Mees (Ho Chi Minh)," tabsis qhov chaws uas tsov rog loj thiab kub ntxhov tshaj plaws yog nyob rau ntawm Tiaj Rhawv Zeb los yog Thoob Haim Him (Plain of Jars) uas yog lub tiaj nrag ntawm qaum Looj Ceeb. Nais Phoo Vaj Pov hais tias, "qhov ntawd mas yog qhov loj tshaj plaws" txhua txhia qhov chaw huv tib si. Kob rog ntawm Tiaj Rhawv Zeb yog ib qho uas sib ntau sib "tua tsis mus tsis los," Nais Phoo Vaj piav; "tej zaum koj ntau qhov no poob, luag ho tuaj ntau qhov tov poob ces pheej sib laub li ntawm." Los txog ntua rau xyoo 1970 ces Nais Phoo Vaj Pov thiaj li txiav txim siab los txeeb kom tau lub tiaj nrag Tiaj Rhawv Zeb. Ces thiaj rov sib txeeb tsis mus tsis los thiab ces Tiaj Rhawv Zeb "thiaj poob rau xyoo '72," Nais Phoo Vaj Pov piav li. Kob rog tiv thaiv lub tebchaws Lostsuas muaj kev puas tsuaj raug cob leej ntau tus. Nais Phoo Vaj Pov cov tub rog uas raug tuag rau tom tshav rog muaj kwv yees li ntawm 35,000 tus. Hos cov raug mob muaj ntau caum phav tus.

Hais txog txoj kev vam meej thij ob uas Hmoob muaj ces "yog txoj kev qhia kom Hmoob txawj Hmoob ntse, qhia kom Hmoob paub nrhiav noj nrhiav haus, ces muaj noj muaj hnav muaj vaj muaj tse tej no," Nais Phoo Vaj Pov hais li. Qhov Hmoob txawj ntse ntawd yog vim Hmoob los sib sau nyob hauv Looj Ceeb, los sib pab dag zog uas tubrog thiab ua lwm yam kev kawm txawj ntse. "Qhov ua kom Hmoob muaj neej ua mas yog ntawm Looj Ceeb - pib ntawd," nws hais li. Xws li kev kawm ntawv, kev noj qab haus huv, "txhia tsav txhia yam kev txawj kev ntse ces tawm ntawd mus rau lwm qhov," Nai Phoo Vaj Pov hais ntxiv.

Hmoob Kev Vammeej Nyob U. S. A.

Thaum Nais Phoo Vaj Pov tuaj txog rau lub tebchaws Asmeslikas lawm, nws paub tias nws qhov haujlwm tseem ceeb tshaj plaws yog los saib xyuas nws cov tib neeg uas tawm hauv lub tebchaws Lostsuas tuaj khuam nyob rau hauv Thaib lub tebchaws. Yog li nws thiaj nrhiav txoj hau kev mus cuag tsoom fwv Asmeslikas kom qhib kev txais tos tsoom neeg thoj nam Lostsuas tuaj rau txawv tebchaws. Thaum ntawd, tus nom Richard Nixon tab tom tawm tso nws txoj hauj lwm tseg yog li nws tus loo, Gerald Ford, thiaj sawv los hloov nws qhov chaws. "Ces President Ford no txawm tsis lav paub peb cov Hmoob thiab Nplog; nws tsuas lav paub Qhabmim (Cambodia) thiab Nyab Laj (Vietnamese) xwb. Ces kuv tsis txaus siab kuv mus nrog nws tham. Ces kuv hais tias, "Hmoob thiab Nplog thiab Nyab Laj thiab Qhabmim no caij tib lub nkoj no tauj xub Nyab Laj Qaum Teb; koj hais li ntawm koj mas nej Asmeslikas no tsis ncaj' no ces nws saib kuv muab khi nws caj dab lawm ces nws thiaj hais tias "txhob tu siab Nais Phoo, kuv mam li hais rau State Department refugee department es kom muab nej qhaub rau program Refugee International' ces peb thiaj li mam tau tuaj," Nais Phoo Vaj

Post on: October 1, 2010Written by: Admin
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