Vulnerable: Fleeing the Secret War in Laos

A #DearGrandparents Story told by Pa Kong Lee (Hmong American)

“At the age of 15, my father was carrying a weapon, an M-1 Garand, for his work under the American CIA in 1962. Like many from the Hmong family, in order to protect his family, they hid in the jungles of Laos as they were hunted by Lao communists. They were typically peaceful people who kept to themselves, until they were pushed out of their lands, and then recruited by the CIA to fight against communism in the Secret War.

My father and his family did not want to be among the countless Hmong casualties, and they finally fled Laos in 1978. My father carried my older brothers and sisters on his back as he fled across the Mekong River in the middle of the night. Many people died crossing this river. He didn’t know how to swim but, luckily, he made it to Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand. I was born there.

When I was six, we moved to the United States and settled in Minnesota, along with most of the Hmong refugees who also immigrated. My parents struggled in this new land, especially since they were unable to work and couldn’t speak the language. We relied heavily on government assistance. We didn’t have much growing up but they made sure we had food on the table.

I’m now done with school and making a living, helping my parents in bigger ways. They may think that they may not have done much in raising us, but I know better. They gave up their homeland, their independence, and their position in their community so we could have a safe place to grow up in. I’ll never be able to pay them back. So whenever they need me—whether it’s the phone bill or driving them to the market or a visit with my kid—for anything, I’m there. No expense will compare to what they have sacrificed for us.”

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo

About The Campaign:
Our #DearGrandparents storytelling series powered by NextDayBetter and AARP AAPI Community celebrates the sacrifice, resilience, and triumphs of Asian American Pacific Islanders for Grandparents Day.

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