The National Lao-Hmong Memorial Foundation restored a T-28 warplane and revealed the design of a memorial to honor Hmong soldiers who fought alongside the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
From 1960 to 1975, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Hmong people to fight in a “Secret War” in Laos. Hmong pilots were trained to fly T-28 airplanes and tasked with as many as 10 missions a day. The soldiers’ main objective was to prevent the Viet Cong from using the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos to supply America’s enemies in South Vietnam. During the war, more than 35,000 Hmong soldiers were killed.
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The National Lao-Hmong Memorial Foundation held an air show on Saturday, showcasing a restored T-28 at Fleming Field in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. The event also included traditional music, food, entertainment and artwork to honor the Hmong soldiers who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
“It just brings a lot of emotion back,” retired Air National Guard Pilot Colonel Jay Gates told KSTP. “Sometimes they even tear up because they knew how valuable this airplane was to defend their country.”
The design of a memorial was also unveiled at the event. The memorial, which will be built in a suburb of Denver, will feature a T-28 fighter-bomber as its centerpiece.
“It really is being used as an educational, promotional piece,” John O’Donnell, one of the fundraising coordinators for the memorial, told Fox 9. “We want people to come out, particularly Hmong people to come out, and take a look at what it is we’re doing. We just want to let them know we’re doing this and we care.”
“It can’t be understated… When you spend eight or 10 years and you bury 40,000 family, tribes-members, clan members – that needs to be acknowledged and that’s what we’re doing,” O’Donnell added.