Peters’ Legislation Would Award Hmong Veterans A Congressional Gold Medal
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) introduced bipartisan legislation – the Hmong Congressional Gold Medal Act – to recognize the distinguished service of the Hmong veterans who served alongside American troops in the Vietnam War by awarding them a Congressional Gold Medal.
As the Vietnam War spread south and west into Laos, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited and trained Hmong men to help American troops fight back against the communist North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao. At great risk to the safety of themselves and their families, Hmong soldiers fought the ground war, flew combat missions, gathered intelligence on North Vietnamese troop movements, interrupted the Ho-Chi-Min Supply Trail, and rescued American pilots downed behind enemy lines. The Hmong people suffered heavy casualties, and their soldiers died at a rate ten times as high as that of American soldiers in Vietnam.
“More than 30,000 Hmong soldiers courageously stood with the American people during the Vietnam War, many of whom lost their lives in the fight against communism,” said Senator Peters. “This bill seeks to provide long-overdue recognition to Hmong veterans for their incredible sacrifices and distinguished service.”
Following the war, many Hmong were displaced from their villages as they were either bombed or burned down by the North Vietnamese and over 150,000 Hmong fled Laos when the nation fell to communist forces in 1975. Due to their ties with the American military, many Hmong came to the United States as refugees to start a new life. Over the ensuing decades, Hmong populations and their traditions have become engrained in communities in Michigan and across the United States. Currently, there are over 327,000 Hmong living in the United States, including approximately 7,000 in Michigan.
Peters is committed to supporting all of our nation’s servicemembers and veterans. In 2021, Peters was inducted into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor for his efforts to support our nation’s veterans and military. In 2017, Peters was recognized as Legislator of the Year by the Vietnam Veterans of America for authoring the bipartisan Fairness for Veterans Act, which was signed into law. The legislation requires veteran discharge review boards to give liberal consideration to petitions for honorable discharge status if the servicemember has been diagnosed with PTSD, TBI or other related conditions connected to their military service. As of the fall of 2020, more than 1,500 veterans have had their discharges upgraded since his legislation was enacted.
Earlier this year, Peters introduced legislation ensures military families can continue to be laid to rest together in VA national cemeteries. Last year, Peters helped enact into law the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act – which delivered VA health care and benefits to all generations of toxic-exposed veterans – and their survivors – for the first time in our nation’s history. Peters also previously introduced bipartisan legislation to protect veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during their service. The Burn Pits Accountability Act would require that servicemembers be assessed for exposure to open toxic burn pits as part of their routine health exams, as this exposure has been known to lead to cancer, cardiovascular toxicity, reproductive issues and neurological damage for numerous Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans.