National Lao-Hmong Memorial to honor those who served in Vietnam

The conversations about building a National Lao-Hmong Memorial began more than a decade ago.

Now what exists only in these renderings is getting close to reality – a future monument to recognize historic sacrifice.

In the 1960’s and 70’s the CIA recruited Hmong people to fight a "secret war in Laos." As a result, tens of thousands lost their lives, including Hmong pilots trained to fly T-28 airplanes as the Royal Lao Air Force – flying as many as 10 missions a day.

"It really is being used as an educational, promotional piece," said John O’Donnell, a fundraising coordinator for the memorial.

The Lao-Hmong Memorial Foundation restored a T-28 and have been flying it across the country – showing it off with demo flights Saturday at Fleming Field in South St. Paul to publicize the memorial.

"We want people to come out, particularly Hmong people to come out, and take a look at what it is we’re doing," O’Donnell said. "We just want to let them know we’re doing this and we care."

The memorial will be built in a suburb of Denver, with the T-28 being the centerpiece.

Minnesota has its own Hmong memorial that was unveiled at the capitol in 2016.

The Twin Cities has often been considered an epicenter of Hmong life in the U.S.

"It can’t be understated… When you spend eight or 10 years and you bury 40,000 family, tribes-members, clan members – that needs to be acknowledged and that’s what we’re doing," said O’Donnell.