Alaska Law Now Honors Hmong Veterans
Hmong and Laotian Veterans Will Now Have Access to Veteran Designation on State IDs
Pasert Lee, center, stands beside Alaska Governor Bill Walker at the signing ceremony for Senate Bill 204.
Alaska House Majority Coalition
FAIRBANKS, AK—Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed legislation to honor Hmong and Laotian soldiers who fought as allies to the United States during the Vietnam War. Senate Bill 204, sponsored by Senator Dennis Egan (D-Juneau) was amended to include language introduced by Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) to authorize use of the special veteran designation for Hmong and Laotian veterans on state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses.
“I was honored to attend the bill signing for this important bill that recognizes Hmong Veterans for our service during the Vietnam War. It’s been more than forty years that we’ve waited for recognition and with the signing of this bill I and many others will proudly get a new driver’s license that will display our Veteran status,” said Pasert Lee, a Hmong Veteran from Anchorage, who traveled to Fairbanks to attend the bill signing.
Though the legislation provides no additional direct benefits to Hmong Veterans, it will allow them to enjoy the numerous voluntary discounts and other benefits many private establishments use to honor veterans—a suite of benefits which previously served only as a reminder of unfulfilled promises.
“Hmong veterans fought honorably alongside American soldiers during the Vietnam War but some 40 years later their service had not been fully recognized. They were promised Veteran status, which has taken decades to materialize,” said Rep. Tarr, who represents an area of Anchorage with a significant Hmong population. “A special designation on a piece of identification is a small gesture, but it’s an important symbol of our respect and appreciation for the Hmong and Laotian veterans who settled in Alaska.”
Hmong soldiers were recruited by the CIA in the 1960s to help fight in Vietnam and Laos. After the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam in 1975, the Hmong people were targeted for retribution by the communist party that took over the Lao Kingdom. It’s estimated that over 100,000 Hmong people died as a result of the Vietnam War and the “Secret War” in Southeast Asia.
“This is a simple act that doesn’t cost the State of Alaska anything, but the outpouring of support for the bill from the Hmong people who live in Alaska shows it’s important to them, and it’s important to me,” said Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage), who co-sponsored the measure in the Alaska House. “The bravery the Hmong and Laotian veterans showed in supporting the United States should be honored and I am proud to support this bill, which does just that on behalf of the State of Alaska.”
Use of the special designation for Hmong veterans passed the Alaska House of Representatives in 2017 by a vote of 39-1. The language was added to Senate Bill 204 this year and the combined legislation passed both chambers unanimously in May.