Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden met with Captain Cher Kai Xiong (middle), a Hmong veteran, and Yee Leng Xiong, the executive director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau,  during his visit to Wisconsin last week. (Photo provided)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden met with Captain Cher Kai Xiong (middle), a Hmong veteran, and Yee Leng Xiong, the executive director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau, during his visit to Wisconsin last week. (Photo provided)

Biden told of one man’s effort to help United States during Vietnam War. 

Last Monday, former vice president Joe Biden made a campaign stop in Manitowoc, touring a manufacturing plant before speaking to plant employees on a range of topics from the pandemic, to the economy and tax policies.

During the final meeting of the trip to Wisconsin—when the pool reporters assigned to the event had left Biden’s side— the Democratic presidential nominee made time to meet with retired Captain Cher Kai Xiong, a Hmong veteran who oversaw 300 soldiers in Laos during the Secret War of the 1960’s.

The visit, coordinated by the Wisconsin Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Biden and  Hmong Americans for Biden, took place at the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport.

Yee Leng Xiong, the executive director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau, translated the conversation between Cher Kai Xiong and Biden. He described the interaction as emotional. 

“Biden turned and looked Cher Kai in the eyes and said, ‘the United States and I will remember, and I commit to remembering the contributions of the Hmong veterans,’” Yee Leng Xiong told UpNorthNews. “I could see it emotionally touched Cher Kai, who is a very stern man. It meant a lot to him.”

Cher Kai Xiong shared his experiences about fighting the Viet Cong with the vice president. His service started in May of 1961, a year after he got married. He said that half of his time was spent living in the jungle and the other half of the time was spent living in towns, guarding the civilian populace. He almost died after being wounded by grenade shrapnel, but he recovered and was able to continue fighting until the fall of Saigon in 1975, the event that marked the loss of the Vietnam War by the United States and an end to the fighting.

Trained as guerillas by the Central Intelligence Agency, Hmong soldiers disrupted North Vietnamese supply trails on the Ho Chi Minh trail and recovered US pilots shot down in Laos. After the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, the US military pulled out of Vietnam and the Hmong population in Laos had to seek refuge in Thailand. The first Hmong civilians began arriving in the US in 1976.

Cher Kai Xiong said he wanted everyone to remember that Biden specifically acknowledged the contributions of the Hmong people, and that he and others were happy that the former vice president made a commitment to acknowledging that contribution.

Biden’s policy to acknowledge the contributions of Hmong veterans during the Vietnam War stands in stark contrast to a policy President Donald Trump proposed in February that called for the deportation of 5,400 Hmong and Lao immigrants living in the United States. 

Cher Kai Xiong, who arrived in Wisconsin in 1978, said that deportation would risk the lives of those that fled Laos and Vietnam in the 1970’s. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Hmong community makes up 38% of Asian Wisconsin residents.

“Because of their contribution, if they were sent back to Laos, they would be at risk of being killed or exterminated because of their role during the war,” said Cher Kai Xiong. “If there are any Hmong individuals in the United States that did commit a crime, they should be punished accordingly to the United States law. But they should not be sent back to Laos, because there would be no way to survive.”

Doua Thor, a chairwoman for Hmong Americans for Biden, said that the Asian American and Pacific Islander vote in Wisconsin is about 3%. Yee Leng Xiong said that the Hmong community in Wisconsin is the marginal victory for any candidate and mentioned that the community doesn’t align itself with a specific political party.

A report from the New York Times said that Trump won the presidential race in Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 1% of the vote. According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Hillary Clinton got 79% of the Asian American votes that year.