Saturday, February 5, 2011

General Vang Pao legacy

February 03, 2011
His body is riddled with bullet scars suffered from his many years of warfare. Having survived through multiple assassination attempts, airplane crashes and even a carpet bombing, many observers make the claim that this man may have been divinely indestructible.

But on January 6, 2011, General Vang Pao, beloved leader of the Hmong people, lost his final battle to pneumonia, and ultimately a heart finally expired.

After a ten-day stay at a Fresno area hospital, Nais Phoos Vaj Pov took his last breath and shared his last heart-beat with loved ones huddled closely by his bedside.

His death, much like the rest of his life, seemed to play out like a Hollywood script. For one thing, the timing of his death coincides with the 50th year anniversary of the famous first meeting between the General and Col. James "Bill" Lair, the CIA operative whose alliance with the General would seal the fate of the Hmong thereafter.

Also, to die just days after appearing one last time at his favorite public event, the Hmong International New Year in Fresno, would also seem to be a great coincidence suitable for a movie script.

Observers on that day, December 26, recall that only minutes after delivering his annual Hmong New Year blessing at the Fresno County Fair Grounds, the General was rushed to the hospital after family members noticed his health deteriorate before their eyes.

They say the General's steps were a bit more timid and his breath a bit more short-winded that morning. He was in obvious pain all day. During his last public speech, his voice cracked with emotions as he seemed to know this would be his last opportunity to be in front of his people [this speech is transcribed on page 3].

"Immediately after we got into the van, the General asked us to send to his home in Southern California-a five hour drive," recalled Ge Vang, a nephew who was with the General that day. "But we told him he would need to check into a nearby hospital. He never made it back home."

Ten days later, including a short reprise where he sat conscious and communicable for a few more hours, doctors would say that the General's frail 81-year-old heart had finally come to a stop.

Those who know him best, however, say that the General's heart never stopped. On the contrary, they say that although the General's body may have died, his heart and his spirit will live forever for the Hmong.

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