vang pao denied burial at arlington

The Army has denied the request to bury Hmong general and community leader Vang Pao, a U.S. ally in the Vietnam War, at Arlington National Cemetery. A board made up of senior military and civilian officials reviewed the request and unanimously recommended that officials decline the burial waiver: Army Denies Vang Pao Burial At Arlington Cemetery.

Vang Pao, who died on January 6, led thousands of Hmong soldiers as they fought alongside the United States against the North Vietnamese Army during the CIA-backed "secret war" in Southeast Asia. His family, with the support of several lawmakers, had asked the Army to grant an exception to Arlington's rules to allow him to be buried at the cemetery.
"The Vang Pao family's request for an exception to the burial policy was thoroughly reviewed by a board comprised of senior military and civilian officials. ... After a comprehensive analysis, the board unanimously recommended denial of the request for exception to policy. Upon receipt of the board's input, the Secretary carefully reviewed and deliberated on this matter and accepted the board's recommendation," according to a statement from the Army released Friday evening.

According to the cemetery's policy, Pao would have had to have served in the U.S. armed forces to be eligible for the honor.

The family can still ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama to make an exception. A Pentagon spokesman said he did not know if any request regarding Pao's burial had reached Gates as of Friday afternoon.
The denial of the Arlington burial was announced on the first day of a six-day funeral service for Vang Pao that drew tens of thousands of mourners to Fresno, California: Thousands Gather To Mourn Hmong Leader Vang Pao.

I know that the general was a controversial figure, especially later in life when he was arrested on charges of plotting to overthrow the government of Laos. That might have informed the board's decision, which did not give a reason for the denial. To me, it just seems like America's final slap in the face to a man who has been referred to as "the biggest hero of the Vietnam war."

Rep. Jim Costa, who submitted the request on behalf of Vang Pao's family, says he plans to seek a review of the decision-making process with Army Secretary John McHugh. His supporters are planning to appeal the decision with the White House. More here: Arlington refuses burial of U.S. ally from Vietnam War.

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