Events Reflections

Veterans Day Question: How can you be a refugee and a soldier at the same time?

Last week we posted about our weekend with Daniel A. Clune, U.S. Ambassador to Laos. We feel privileged to have joined over 300+ guests at the Saturday night banquet and, on Sunday, a smaller group for brunch. Perhaps it was the smaller size, added to the fact that many of the guests had also attended the banquet, that encouraged the Sunday brunch guests to ask more personal questions. A common thread during the Q & A was the emotional pain shared by the in-between generation, who were only children when they and their parents escaped from Laos to Thailand and then made the life-changing journey to the U.S.

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Group photo with U.S. Ambassador Clune and Steve Ly from Sunday’s event

Photo Credit: Foom Tsab

Many who stood up to ask Ambassador Clune a question choked back tears or had trouble putting into words the sacrifices their parents had made and the enormous obstacles they faced to make a better future for their children. They referenced the courage of their fathers, uncles, and elders, who put their lives on the line when they supported and fought along side U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. Because these veterans are classified as refugees, not soldiers fighting on behalf of the U.S., they have not been eligible for VA (Veterans Affairs) Benefits, including medical assistance.

As we head into the November 11 national celebration of Veterans Day, we recommend watching Vietnam War photographer Galen Beery’s powerful 12-minute documentary on how it is possible to be a refugee and a soldier:

We would also like to thank Elk Grove City Councilman Steve Ly for sending us the link to Galen Beery’s film, for including us in many special events within the Sacramento community and across the state, and especially for inspiring and supporting the Secret War in Laos Oral Histories Project. It feels as though our journey into researching and documenting this missing chapter in our history books is just beginning.

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