ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A newly unveiled memorial represents many things to the Hmong and Laos community.
“It might be a Hmong theme, but it belongs to all of Minnesota all who believe in freedom,” said Dia Thao, a St. Paul city council member.
It’s inspired by survivors of the "Secret War" in Laos, which took place from 1961 to 1975. It was a time during the Vietnam War when the CIA secretly recruited people to find fallen pilots and hold back north Vietnamese troops. When the war ended, St. Paul became a safe haven for refugees.
“I am very happy for today,” said Kao Konng, who once served for the CIA, in the Special Guerilla Unit.
Throughout the day, people celebrated their culture though prayer, dance, and more activities.
Veterans, politicians, along with crowds of friends and family members gathered on the state Capital grounds for the long awaited occasion.
“I was born in Laos. I came here when I was eight in 1983, my father, in 1989,” said Thao. “He went back to join resistance. I've never seen him since. I think part of this is closure and we've been here for over 40 years and finally there is a place to pay respect to the brave men and women.”
Now, those veterans, who formed a brotherhood with Americans on the front lines, are honored with overflowing pride in their community.
“By the dedication of this monument today, let us have no doubt that the Hmong and Laos people have been woven into the fabric of Minnesota,” said Chris Coleman, mayor of St. Paul.