Local

General Vang Pao buried at Forest Lawn

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Fresno Convention Center remained packed with mourners overnight, the crowds thinning Wednesday morning only after the casket carrying General Vang Pao was loaded into a hearse, which then lead a long funeral procession to Southern California.

Sonia Yang is one of those who stayed behind, to help clean up after the six day ceremony. She was disappointed the General would not be honored with a burial at Arlington National Cemetery. "Of course we were all trying very hard, but unfortunately, it didn't come out."

On Tuesday, the late General's wife and youngest son, through Congressman Jim Costa appealed to President Obama to allow the General a military burial at Arlington. The Secretary of the Army had already denied their request for a waiver. While General Vang Pao and his Hmong guerilla army fought for the United States during the Vietnam War he did not qualify as an American veteran. An Arlington burial was supported by many veterans, like Steve Doakes, who heads the Fresno Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

"I personally feel he ought to be authorized to go to Arlington. I think a lot of folks who say no, don't know much about the war." Doakes said.

Veteran Bob Lindamood of Chowchilla, started an internet campaign for veterans to offer to give up their place at Arlington for General Vang Pao. "There are a lot of Veterans, myself included who say, give up my spot, give up my place in Arlington, he can have my spot."

But, according to cemetery rules, while any qualified veteran can be interred there are no assigned plots for individual veterans.

Steve Doakes said, "As I understand it, the funeral home makes all of the arrangements to get you there and then once you arrive they put you in the next plot which comes available. You don't really get a spot. You can't make reservations."

A source close to the General's immediate family told us there was some division over the Arlington burial issue, and some believed Forest Lawn was a better choice.

Sonia Yang noted that the General hated cold weather, preferring his homes in Orange County and Fresno to a home he maintained in Minnesota.

"I feel like maybe he doesn't want to leave California, because California is the best weather." Yang said.

One of the late General's former wives is already buried at Forest Lawn.

A family spokesperson told us that if the President eventually does decide to allow the General to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery it will be up to the families spiritual advisors to determine if his remains should be moved.

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general vang pao, fresno downtown, fresno, fresno county, local, gene haagenson
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