Hmong vet gets the full military honors he championed

Bla Pao Yang, 74, was an American hero who spent much of his adult life fighting for the right to be recognized.

On Monday, he became the first Hmong veteran in Rochester, Minn., to be accorded full military honors at his funeral, thanks to the congressional bill this year that allowed the same honors for Hmong veterans as U.S. veterans. Hmong veterans fought on behalf of the United States in the secret war in Laos.

“For him to finally get these honors, there’s no words to express that,” daughter Mai Thao told the Rochester Post-Bulletin. “We are so glad that he can be honored properly for his brave service to his country.”

Yang, who was recruited by the CIA, fought in on-ground combat, and helped American soldiers traverse Laos safely, his daughter said.

After the war, he, his wife, and children settled in Rochester where he championed the need for Hmong veterans to be properly recognized.

He loved (Rochester),” Thao said. “It’s a small-town feel, so he’s been here the majority of his life, and now we’re resting him here.”

She said it’s fitting he was the first in Rochester to be properly honored.

“We know that this is a great honor, and it would make him very proud,” Thao told the PB. “All his years of advocacy have paid off and the other brothers that fought alongside him will now have the same honor.”