About 200 Hmong- and Lao-American veterans from around the country are gathering in St. Paul this weekend to address the question of who can be buried in United States veterans cemeteries.
A law passed last year allows for Hmong- and Lao-American veterans who served in the U.S. "secret army" in Laos during the Vietnam War, and their spouses, to be buried or cremated at the cemeteries. But the law only applies to vets naturalized as citizens after the year 2000.
Pa Lee is the daughter of William Lee, a Hmong veteran who assisted the CIA.
"I know because I am my father's oldest daughter. I've lived through it. I know what he has gone through, and not only that, so many friends and families and relatives have served with the U.S. to help them," she said.
Under the law as it is written, her father would not be allowed a burial in a veterans cemetery, Lee said.
Phillip Smith, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C., said the law has a "technical glitch" that causes at least 50 percent of Hmong veterans and Lao veterans, and their families, to be excluded.
Attendees at the conference will discuss efforts to potentially to expand the law.
The fourth annual Lao Hmong Veterans National Conference started Friday and continues Saturday.
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.