Costa, Hmong & Lao American Veterans Celebrate Legislative Victory
By Claudia Larson
On March 29, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) was joined by Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU) veterans and veterans organization leaders to announce and celebrate the enactment of the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act as incorporated into last week’s appropriations law.
This is a significant legislative victory for SGU veterans and for the people of the San Joaquin Valley, home to thousands of Hmong and Lao American veterans who served in the Special Guerrilla Unit during the Vietnam War. Valley veterans leaders have been working on this for decades, including those who passed away before yesterday’s celebration, such as General Vang Pao, who was the commander of SGU forces during the Vietnam War, and Charlie Waters and Bill Dietzel, well-respected veterans advocates and leaders.
Congressman Costa has led the bipartisan legislative initiative to extend to SGU veterans burial benefits in national cemeteries, including San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, since 2010. Costa has introduced legislation to extend burial benefits to SGU veterans in each of the last five Congresses, working closely with local SGU veterans organizations in this long-fought victory.
“Today is a day of celebration for our SGU veterans, both here in our San Joaquin Valley and across our nation,” said Rep. Costa. “These courageous men and women fought alongside U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, with some making the ultimate sacrifice. After nearly a decade of determination, advocacy, and bipartisan, bicameral policy efforts, we successfully enacted this legislation. This law is a powerful symbol of a grateful nation, and it is important to ensure our SGU veterans and their families receive the honor, recognition, and benefits they have earned. This was simply the right thing to do.”
Key Hmong and SGU leaders from across the United States joined for the celebratory announcement, including Peter Vang and Major Cheurchai Vang with Lao Veterans of America, Inc., Chue C. Tchang and Major Nhia Long Vang with SGU Veterans, local veterans advocates Harry Paul and Bob McLaughlin, city council officials Blong Xiong and Vong Mouanoutoua, and General Vang Pao’s son, Chi Neng Vang.
The official extension of veterans burial benefits to SGU veterans was secured in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, the appropriations bill that was signed into law last week.