GREETING, THANK YOU & ACKNOWLEDGMENT I want to express a special thanks to the people of Minnesota, the statue committee, the CAAP Board, veterans groups, Hmong/Lao community leaders, the generous donors, the artists, activists and all those involved in this important project, from the very beginning. Because of your dedicated efforts over these many years, we are now here together, as one celebrating the completion of this Minnesota Memorial to honor the Hmong-Lao men and women who loyally served, in alliance with the U.S. Armed Forces during the Secret War in Laos. In a period of nearly 15 years, from 1961-1975, more than 35,000 Hmong & Lao gave their lives, in a war far away, so that more American young men and women would NOT have to be sent there. Thousands of more lives of my people were lost crossing the Mekong River, during our exodus from Laos to Thailand - a very serious and heavy price to pay for a people numbering only about 200,000. So there is much sadness in recalling the losses From the perspective of many Americans in the Vietnam era, the WAR was not favorable. For those who fought in it, died in it, or served the war effort in some way for the United States, they did not always receive respect from the larger American population. It has been a constant struggle for the Vietnam veterans to retain their pride after coming home. For those like you (the Hmong & Lao veterans), who fought next door in the Secret War in Laos to protect American lives, your sense of worth may have been seen as expendable. No one knew who you were, no one heard of your valor or how much you’ve sacrificed as soldiers of the Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU). A half of a century has passed, and now there are SO few of you left. We are blessed to still have some of you, the youngest of the heroes, here living with us. We owe our lives and freedom to you and your brothers-in-arms for your courage and sacrifice fighting on behalf of the United States of America. As a MINNESOTA State Senator, I HAVE to sincerely say that … this memorial recognizing your sacrifice should have taken place several years earlier. This is truly a long overdue recognition. However, today, the sun shines even brighter. As our vision become cleared, the Memorial is right here in front of us. There is no better time than now, to raise your head high in dignity, right here in our great state of Minnesota. I say, today is one of the greatest days for Hmong and Lao Americans, and those in diaspora. We come together today to celebrate this Memorial a result of our combined efforts and unity. This is a recognition, from the people of Minnesota to Hmong and Lao veterans and families all over the world. My Hmong and Lao people, the new era is here. The new era, which we must honor our past and wholeheartedly focus toward a progressive future. From this day forward, we will come back to this place, to remember those who fought and died in the Secret War in Laos and to learn about our past and to celebrate being Americans. We will also remember those who lost their lives escaping persecution and those who wanted so much to see this day but were gone too soon – let us celebrate for them. We will remember all Laotians served as American Special Forces, whether they were from the region of Pakse/Savanake, Samnue, Xiengkhoua or other regions of Laos or whether they were of the lowland Lao, Tai Dam, Khamu, Mien or other ethnic minorities of Southeast Asia. We will remember them all. We will remember the barefooted young Hmongs coming down from the highland to be recruited and trained as parachuters, radio operators, nurses and rescuers. We will remember all Laotian who lost their lives saving Americans. We will remember the T-28 pilots and the Forward Air Controllers. We will remember Longtien, and we will remember General Vang Pao. We will remember the American military personnel and those captured as prisoners of war. And we will not forget those still Missing in Action. And we will remember the Hmong freedom fighters after the war and the child-soldiers who grew up in the treacherous time. We will remember them. Today, Minnesota pays tribute to you, those who are here and those who have gone, and everyone spoken about. Your legacy lives on with this memorial. May your children work hard and thrive in this great land we now called home. Thank you. God bless you and God bless Minnesota.