On Saturday, March 13, the City of Clovis presented a proclamation honoring Lt. Col. Wangyee Vang, Ph.D. for his military service, and advocacy for his native home of Laos. He served as a pivotal advocate for the Hmong and Laos community in Fresno and Clovis.
Vang was known by many for his integrity, honesty and his willingness to help others.
Longtime friend of Lt. Col. Vang is Bee Vang, a U.S. veteran who met Vang while volunteering during Vang’s time as the president of Laos Veterans of America.
“He was very honest…a man of integrity and his heart was like gold,” Bee said.
“I think he was put on this Earth to be a public servant, [to] serve the community and not just the Hmong community or the veterans, but the whole community as well.”
Vang was born on November 8, 1947 in the country of Laos and at the age of 13, he was summoned to the army in December of 1960 where he was sent to Hua Hin, Thailand to train as a Field Radio Operator and a Parachutist for the Secret War in Laos.
The Secret War was a covert CIA-backed operation that took place during the Vietnam War from 1959-1975.
During this time, the Hmong in Laos were recruited to fight against the North Vietnamese and the Communist Pathet Lao army to stop them from taking over the Laotian Panhandle and converting the country into a communist region.
Vang’s time spent in the army allowed him to climb the ranks as he became commander of the First Special Field Radio Operations and the appointed chief of multiple locations during the war.
After serving his time in the army, Vang chose to continue pursuing a career in education where he received his bachelor’s in teaching along with various other certifications.
Bee said that while also working as an advocate for the community Vang heavily emphasized the importance of education.
“He always led by example and despite him having a veteran’s background…he also taught and preached [to] the younger generations to not forget where they came from, but to encourage the youth and newer generations to always strive for success through education,” he said.
While Vang felt his calling was to teach others, he soon realized his talents were needed in other places when the North Vietnamese attacked the Samthong and Long Cheng Airport in the summer of 1970.
His return to the army led him to become a captain for the Special Guerrilla Forces and an officer liaison and operations assistant with the American Special Officers.
Throughout his time at Lao National Army Staff School, he received the Medal of Honor from the King of Laos, Sri Savang Vathana, for excellent and good citizenship.
During these next two years, Vang rose in the ranks of the military where he was promoted and again awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage.
The fall of Laos brought Vang and his family to Thailand to find refuge.
During this time he began to promote and advocate for his people in the Hmong and Laos community.
His passion for advocacy led him to become the Hmong Refugee Representative from 1977-1979 where he supported the community by advocating for better food, living conditions, medical care and education amongst the people.
Fall of 1979, Vang and his family sought refuge in Huntington Beach, Calif.
10 years later, shortly after his establishment of the non-profit organization, The Lao Veterans of America, they moved to Fresno.
The Lao Veterans of America is based in Fresno and has since served as an advocacy and research center that provides support for Hmong and Lao veterans and their families.
Vang was also pivotal in the establishment of the Lao Veterans Memorial located in Arlington National Cemetery and the creation of the Lao Hmong American War Memorial found at the Fresno Superior Court.
In 2002, Vang was given the opportunity to take part in the U.S. Congregation where he attended the conference in Israel alongside other nations to help discuss plans for peace in the Middle East.
No more than two years later he obtained his Doctorate in Business Administration and was appointed by the California Gov. to become a member of the Board of Directors for the Big Fresno Fair and the 21 District Agriculture of Fresno from 2005-2012.
Vang’s leadership in creating these memorials and advocating for peace was a way for him to live out his promise of dedicating his life to peace and equality in the United States and in his native home of Laos.
“He was very inspirational because he meant a lot to the community. He always led by example. The things he did, he did not just do it for himself or for other people to praise him, but he did it for the newer generation,” Bee said.
Vang’s continuous need to find new challenges for himself to pursue are what has made him such an influential figure in not just the Hmong and Lao community, but in all the communities he’s been a part of during his life.
His belief in encouraging those to advocate for higher education has acted as an inspiration for those around him and his wants to help future generations prosper is something friends, family and others in the community will forever be grateful for.