Saturday, May 16th marked a historical moment for acknowledgment of Hmong and Lao veterans in Minnesota. Hundreds of invited Hmong and Lao veterans community, leaders, and public officials gathered in the capitol lawn of Saint Paul, for a breaking ground event to mark the first Hmong Lao Memorial Monument. The memorial will be built on the front lawn in the upcoming year ahead.
The memorial’s design is reported to be a bronze bamboo shoot representing growth and prosperity. The monument will honor the over 80,000 Hmong and Lao soldiers who took part in the efforts with the United States military and CIA operations during the Laotian Civil War and Vietnam War era. The memorial’s success was a coordinated effort with local Hmong and Lao veteran community in MN, as well as similar movements across the states. It’s expected to finish by 2016, funded by an approved bonding bill and private contributions from the community.
While the memorial is an important step towards recognition of Hmong and Lao veterans and their sacrifices, the next step for legislators to truly acknowledge veterans and their families is through policy changes that addresses dire healthcare and social security needs and benefits. As they pass on, it’s a legacy of war that their families and generations more will have to carry. What will the community’s role be? How can we mobilize to see this through? It will be a challenge and an opportunity for the upcoming political landscape, come 2016 elections.
-Chanida Potter, email@example.com