APPLETON, Wi. (WBAY) - A new state bill aims to recognize a group whose sacrifice for America isn’t often acknowledged. Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) discussed the legislation Monday in Appleton, which would create a Hmong-Lao Veterans Day in Wisconsin.
“It is a distinct honor for me to be sharing a stage up here with these veterans,” said Sen. Roth while addressing the crowd that gathered at the Long Cheng Marketplace.
Hmong veterans fought for America during the Vietnam War. As many as 1,000 of them now live in Wisconsin.
“We really fought hard on the American side,” said Lo Lee, one of the Hmong veterans. “And, as you may already be aware of, a lot of Hmong people lost their lives during this war.”
“We fought, we fought over there,” said Joe Vang, another Hmong veteran. “I have two brothers, I lost them.”
To honor their sacrifices, Roth announced a bill that would establish Hmong-Lao Veterans Day on May 14th – the same date in 1975 when surviving Hmong soldiers had to flee their homeland to avoid persecution for helping America.
“They left their homeland. They had to, otherwise they probably would’ve been probably thrown into prison or executed. They sacrificed and served our country,” said Roth. “They fought when they didn’t have to.”
But the veterans feel their sacrifices don't get a lot of recognition from the public.
“Veteran’s from this country, they get honored a lot. We don’t,” said Vang. “I want to be recognized.”
“As a fellow veteran, I know that you [have to] recognize the people and make sure the community understands their service and sacrifice,” said Roth. “For these folks here, they haven’t gotten that.”
The hope is that beyond recognition, the bill will also provide an opportunity for schools to educate the public.
“Encouraging our school districts to go and take time during that day to let the students know the important contributions these veterans made helping the United States,” said Roth.
"Hmong is truly an American friend and we will always be on the American side,” said Lee.
Roth believes the bill will pass into law and hopes to have it done before the end of the current legislative session, which is in March.