Another effort is underway in Minnesota to allow veterans of one of America’s secret wars to be buried in state veterans cemeteries.
The Hmong fighters were recruited, trained, directed,supported, and paid by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to fight in their native Laos during the Vietnam war. But they’ve not been able to get buried in U.S. veterans cemeteries.
A similar bill was filed at the Legislature last year by Rep. Bob Dettmer. It got one hearing and then died. No Senate companion bill was filed.
Minnesota is believed to have about 400 Hmong veterans, the largest of any state.
At the time, the head of the Minnesota National Guard suggested what the Hmong did wasn’t any more special than other allies of the U.S., according to the Star Tribune.
In a letter made available to committee members, Minnesota Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito, himself a Vietnam veteran, acknowledged the role Hmong fighters had in the secret war in Laos, and pointed out that the state has proclaimed a special Royal Lao Armed Forces Day each year. But, Shellito said, granting special rights for Hmong fighters would represent a precedent, and any honor bestowed on Hmong veterans would have to be provided equally to others, such as Vietnamese, Iragis, Afghans, and Somalis.
“As you know, the Laotians are not unique in having served alongside U.S. Forces in the past,” he wrote.