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General Vang Pao denied Arlington burial

Friday, February 04, 2011

In keeping with Hmong tradition, a spirit guide began the process of sending General Vang Pao's body from this world into the spiritual world with a series of chants Friday night.

A select few kneeled and bowed in front of the general's casket. Others stayed seated to pay their respects.

"This is almost like Hmong New Year to me but you know what, it's a sad day. We're here to pay respect." said Brenda Lee of Fresno.

Two Royal Lao Family soldiers served as honor guards. A family spokesperson tells Action News this grand gesture is only reserved for people of the general's stature.

Thousands of mourners spent the day at the Fresno Convention Center reflecting on the past. Tommy Vang came from Rhode Island.

"He's just our father. He's like George Washington. Like Martin Luther King to the African Americans as he is to us." said Vang.

But with grief also came outrage as the family of the late general learned that their revered leader would not be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Many American military leaders who served alongside the general considered him worthy of the honor. But the Secretary of the Army disagreed, saying it would deprive an American soldier of a gravesite at a cemetery where space is at a premium.

Jonas Vanguy represents the Hmong committee that petitioned to have the general buried at Arlington. He's angry and vows to appeal the decision.

"We are not going to stop here. We will form a new wave of appeals to the President's office to make sure that the government knows our intention and we will fight until the end to have the General be buried over there." said Vanguy.

Family members declined our request for an interview regarding the burial situation. Action News did speak with the general's youngest son Thursday night asking him what the family would do if the general wouldn't get in. Chineng Vang says the only other option would be to bury his father at a cemetery in Southern California.

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