EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - A chance to honor some veterans won't happen yet, after a bill was voted down in Washington D.C.
Hmong veterans who served during the Vietnam War and helped rescue American pilots can't be buried in U.S. military cemeteries.
The bill would have opened the door for that, but it failed a senate vote.
Nao Cha Xiong grew up in Laos in a dangerous time. He was recruited to help the United States during the Vietnam War.
He spoke through a translator, Pa Thao, the executive director of the Eau Claire Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.
“I was a messenger, so I let the headquarters know where enemies were. Then they would decide how to proceed,” Xiong said through Thao.
“It wasn't a war that we fought for us because we didn't have a country. It was a war that we fought for the Americans.”
He rose to the rank of commander but when he moved to the U.S., he said he wasn't recognized for his contribution.
“When we were done with the war we expected to be treated the same way. We were American soldiers and wanted to be recognized as such. We're still not recognized.”
Legislators in Washington had a chance to change that with a new bill this week. It would have allowed Hmong veterans to be buried in U.S. veterans cemeteries for the first time, but it failed by 14 votes in the senate. A senate spokesman said it was a small part of a large bill, costing about $20 billion and added to the national deficit, which made it lose support.
“The people, especially the leaders in Washington D.C., they should understand that we do the same thing that everybody do. We fought the same war so we should be recognized and we deserve to be whatever they want to be,” Hmong American Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1 president Chong Chang Her said.
“I think it's right to be buried in a cemetery designated for veterans. I fought in the war from 1962 to 1975. Tons of us were going into the jungle to rescue the pilot without any concern for us safety but for the well-being of the pilot that was down. We expected to be treated the same way that an American solider would be treated,” Xiong said.
Chang Her said it's important for everyone to know what the Hmong veterans did and that they're here because of the what happened in the war.
We reached out to U.S. Senators and Senator Ron Johnson said he would have supported the bill if it would have reduced the deficit.