Tens of thousands of Hmong soldiers who fought and died alongside Americans were included for the first time in a memorial ceremony that remembers those taken prisoner or missing in action during the Vietnam War.
As part of a Memorial Day ceremony marking the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Milwaukee lakefront, the Hmong soldiers were honored with a place at the "Missing Man Table."
The round table, draped with white linen, sits before the towering pillars that mark the memorial. Its chairs are empty, though each place is set in memory of those soldiers and civilians taken prisoner or missing in action during the Vietnam War.
For Chue C. Xiong, now a U.S. citizen, the inclusion of the Hmong at the table is a welcome acknowledgment of the sacrifices made by many in his homeland.
"It's sad because my father die for this cause, and some in U.S. not recognize it publicly," said Xiong, who came to the United States with an uncle at 16. "Most American citizens know little or nothing about how the Hmong serve the CIA and the United States."
Hmong soldiers helped U.S. pilots shot down over Laos during the war, served as spies and tried to disrupt supplies the communists shipped through Laos that were destined for North Vietnamese troops in Vietnam.