By: Eliyas Vang

Hmong teens face what seems like countless and never ending lectures from their parents.   However, looking at the average Hmong parent’s background and history, their parents lecture so that their children will know better and escape what they faced in their own lives.

Before the Secret War in Laos, Kao Vang was just an ordinary person, trying to survive in a third world environment. By 5 or 6 in the morning, he would already be awake, making a quick breakfast which consisted of rice, zaub (leafy dark greens) in water, pepper with a salt for a dip, and if it was available, boiled chicken. Afterwards, he would leave his home to go to the fields to continue farming the land, or into the forest to gather wood for fire, and then go and feed the animals.

“When I was about 10 or 11 years old,” says Vang. “I went by myself to watch the animals, or go to the fields. My dad and the elders never lectured me because I did everything that they asked of me. My brothers would get yelled at and lectured for being lazy and slow. I would even have to sleep near the animals or in the fields at night to keep watch for tigers and monkeys in case they came to cause problems.”

After the Secret War started, Vang was trained to be a SGU, or Special Guerrilla Unit.

“My brothers, friends and I would lie on the ground and wait to shoot the enemy, and if there were too many we all would run and hide,” says Vang.  “I saw some of my friends and brothers die. Even though I saw them die, I showed no emotion, as kids my age were taught to never show emotion.  I was shot in the leg, and you can still see the scar. When General Vang Pao fled to Thailand, he told his fellow men that their only hope was to run to the Mekong River, and swim across it to Thailand. I made it across, but he said that not everyone who ran and swam for it survived.”

Vang made it to Thailand and endured long days and nights in the refugee camps. Then, he was given the opportunity to start a new beginning here in the US. To this day, Vang is still enjoying the new life he was given way back then when he first arrived to this country. He gets to enjoy the things his sons and daughters enjoy.

When it comes to talking about Vang’s childhood, his children feels that they are truly blessed to have been born in this country.

“My dad’s past has helped me to understand that he is really just looking out for my best interest, for my future,” says Jediah Vang. “Looking at it from his eyes, my happiness, future, and well-being is one of his priorities. Everything he says and does, it’s to make sure that I never have to go through the things that he had to endure in his younger days. His words I treasure for they are not of a nagging nature, but rather a motivational one. This I have come to understand when I am looking at it from his eyes.”