ABOUT THIS COLLECTION
Like most refugee and immigrant communities, the Hmong American community continues to experience generational gaps. Often times, Hmong youth may not understand how their parents’ or grandparents’ stories are relevant to their lives. While Hmong elders feel that the young are not listening, making them feel invisible and disrespected.
Hmong Museum and the Special Guerrilla Unit Veterans both recognize these challenge. Therefore, the “Unforgotten” project was designed to pair students and young professionals with Hmong Veterans from the Special Guerrilla Unit, to document their untold war stories. Over the course of 2018, Hlee Lee, a local filmmaker, taught participants the art of film making in order to bring the Vet’s stories to life.
The producers captured hours of interviews with each Veteran, then thoughtfully assembled key moments into a few special minutes.
Chue Doua Lee, recalls his life as a young solider which began in 1961. Like many Special Guerrilla Unit soldiers the sudden pullout of Americans left panic and chaos. It was unclear what would happen. He felt there were only two paths: “we couldn’t leave but if we stayed, we die.”
Ly Vang, was only 9 when she was recruited to become a nurse. Many young Hmong girls left their families to play their role in the Secret War that took place in Laos. However, their stories are rarely heard. In this short film, Vang, shares her incredible journey, from her father’s home to the hard training and work as a Special Guerrilla Unit nurse.
Neng Xiong, a Hmong Veteran who fought in the Secret War re-accounts moments in his journey to America. From how he crossed the Mekong River to get to Thailand to his first job in America. Like many Special Guerrilla Unit soliders, Neng was a child, only 15 when he joined the fight.
What is the Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU)?
Known as the “secret army”, these soldier which mainly consisted of Hmong, were recruited by the Central Intelligent Agency (CIA) to conduct covert operations in Laos near North Vietnam where U.S. forces were forbidden by Congress to enter due to the 1954 Geneva Accord. They were lead by General Vang Pao, who was at the time a Major in the Royal Lao Army.
As shared through the stories of the featured SGU Veterans, in the later years of the Secret War due to the massive number killed, they began to recruit children as soldiers, nurses and medics.
2015 marked the 40th year anniversary for the Hmong’s arrival in the America. With each passing year, the number of SGU Veterans are dwindling. There are still so many untold stories of their lives before, during and after service.
A special thank you to the amazing organization, In Progress, for the use of their space and equipment.