DATELINE: OSHKOSH, Wis., February 24, 2002, Sunday
Hmong veterans who fought with Americans in Vietnam deserve the same military
funeral honors as other U.S. veterans, a legislator says.
Though the state has an estimated 2,000 aging
Hmong veterans, they have been denied official funeral honors because the
Hmong were never classified as members of the U.S. military.
Rep. Terry Musser, R-Black River Falls, said Hmong veterans were recruited and
trained to do such things as help the CIA find downed American pilots in
southeast Asian jungles, so they at least deserve Wisconsin's official military
"I think it's a project that is well needed. Like so many other things, it's
long overdue," said Musser, a Vietnam veteran who serves as chairman of the Assembly Veterans
and Military Affairs Committee.
He learned about the funeral issue from Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh, after a
story in the Oshkosh Northwestern told of the funeral held for a CIA-trained
The newspaper reported that Xailee Lor, who died Jan. 1 at age 53, was granted
military funeral honors - presentation of a
burial flag, playing of taps and a gun salute - but only as a training exercise
for a National Guard unit.
Musser said he plans to investigate whether Wisconsin's funeral honors
provisions for veterans can be extended to include the Hmong, although some in
the military community oppose any change in the definition of U.S. military
"While this is a very controversial issue among our veterans, we need to find a
way to recognize the service that our allies gave to us," Roessler said.
"It's the only appropriate thing to do."
Both legislators plan to meet with members of the Wisconsin Lao-Hmong Veterans
Roessler said she planned to contact U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, who
has helped Hmong residents in their quest for citizenship.