“I fought, I survived, I held honor. There are those who do not think I am honorable enough”, said Mr. Khao Insixiengmay.
Familiar Lao faces scooted in a crowded room as I quickly ran into Sen. Linda Higgins office in the Senate Office Building on Monday. It was a day that Mr. Khao Insixiengmay, the former soldier of the Royal Lao Army, former US Ally during the Secret War, and former Executive Director of the Lao Advancement Organization of America (LAO America) was to be publicly honored for his military service and dedication to the Lao community.
I was invited by fellow community advocate, David Zander, who initiated the public proclamation for Mr. Khao because “Every single day we testified for legislation that impacted the Lao, he came. He always came.” I knew I couldn’t miss showing my support to Loong (Uncle) Khao either.
The same day, it also happened to be the annual Asian Pacific Day rally at the State Capitol hosted by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) and David proudly read the proclamation as Loong Khao rallied his fellow Royal Lao Army comrades to come up with him. Then Loong Khao spoke to a packed room of over 100 people. Looking tired and weary, he held his words strong with conviction and poise as he yelled out his ‘I fought! I survived! Give us rights!’ mantra. The echoing plea of every Lao and Hmong veteran that fought side by side US soldiers during the Vietnam War era.
As I walked back with Loong Khao to a meeting at the Senate Office Building, I asked him why he retired from LAO America. He simply replied, “I’m losing clarity in my mind. I’m getting too old.” It was a fair enough way to say that it was time in the community’s chapter to turn the pages and for me to remember and learn from this living legacy. The dynamics in the politics of veterans rights and benefits are far in between with the community and that’s just part of the transitional process for not only social justice but community unity. It serves as a constant reminder to the next generation how much we have a stake in learning, engaging, and caring for this living legacy that involves many of our own fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers.
If you haven’t met Loong Khao, I suggest you do.
A bit of historical resources online about Mr. Khao Insixiengmay:
-Chanida Phaengdara Potter