We Pause to Remember the Refugees of Wars This Memorial Day Weekend

Below is a message from Friendly Vang-Johnson, founder of Friendly Hmong Farms, a CSA created during COVID to support Hmong flower farmers whose businesses were shuttered during quarantine.

There will be no flowers this week / weekend as we take time as a nation to reflect and honor the sacrifices of fallen American soldiers. Some of us will celebrate in the “traditional” way with flags or by attending parades. Others might go to the cemetery for quiet prayer. This year, I propose you consider including Hmong soldiers who lives were cut short before they could become Americans in your thoughts, observances, and praxis.

As many of you know, the Hmong diaspora out of southeast Asia came as the direct result of the U.S. operating a clandestine war in Laos, as it simultaneously waged a public war in Vietnam. The C.I.A enlisted Hmong people, including children, to run operations in the Laos, rescuing downed U.S. fighter pilots. When the U.S. disengaged from Vietnam, only a handful of families were immediately taken out of the country, including my own. Most Hmong families, many of them my uncles, aunts, and cousins, were left behind to languish in refugee camps for years, even decades. When my grandmother lived out her last days with dementia a few years ago, her reoccurring daily reality was that we were evacuating and she could not find all her children. As allies of the U.S., it is said that the Hmong suffered causalities 10 times that of American soldiers

If we are to truly respect and honor the sacrifices of those who have been lost in war, we must recognize that war is horrific. We must do all we can, as a community and as a nation, to seek peace and prevent war. To heal from past war and conflict, we must do everything we can to make truth and reconciliation an integral part of our lives.

Here are a few suggestions from my heart: Advocating for ethnic studies in public education, funding culturally relevant mental health services for veterans and refugees(!), and sharing with neighbors and friends what we know about Hmong-American history and the Hmong-American presence in the PNW are all routes for truth and reconciliation. We can also advocate for Hmong to have a fair and equitable chance at accessing public programs, such as USDA’s farmland loan program, because we know the sacrifices made by the Hmong and the how farming has been a lifeline for the Hmong community. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to sign and share this short form for my letter advocating for structural reform of USDA’s farmland loan application process. These actions move us all closer to realizing a vision for America that pays heed to the lives lost, both military and civilian.

As the fields replenish, have a safe and beautiful holiday this weekend. Let us work together so that all who are living through and who have survived war and conflict may also enjoy this opportunity one day, too. 

Be Well, In Community,

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