- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - Former Marathon County Administrator Mort McBain recently borrowed a Vietnam War-era flight suit and posed with two Hmong young men - one in fatigues, the other in traditional Hmong garb.

That image of two young Hmong soldiers supporting an American will be translated into a life-size sculpture outside the Marathon County Courthouse. The final product won’t look like McBain or the other models, but will illustrate how Hmong soldiers supported and sometimes rescued American fighters during the Vietnam War.

“It’s time for us to build a memorial to honor the Hmong veterans for their sacrifices and contributions, before we lose that whole history,” said Peter Yang, executive director of the Hmong American Center in Wausau, who’s on the committee driving the new memorial.

The Hmong Vietnam War Veterans Memorial has been in the works for years, Yang said. McBain presented a proposal to the Marathon County Board and submitted an application for county funds to cover 10 percent of the expected $240,000. The county will consider the request in July.

Organizers of the memorial already have raised $40,000 from two local foundations as well as individual donors and businesses, Wausau Daily Herald Media (https://wdhne.ws/1Iw14RV ) reported.

“We’ll be ramping up the fundraising activities,” McBain said.

Current Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger said county supervisors are very receptive to the memorial.

“They welcome it,” Karger said. “They’re looking forward to it.”

Last fall, Karger helped Hmong leaders select a spot for the memorial on the courthouse lawn, east of the building.

The project has a lot of supporters in the community, including Jim Campbell, co-founder of the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. Campbell loaned his flight suit and equipment to McBain for the statue’s design. The sculpture will rest on top of an 8-foot base.

“It just seemed like it was a good representation, because it told a story,” McBain said about the sculpture. “Part of the duties of the Hmong who worked for the CIA was to rescue downed American pilots.”

Hmong fighters from the Vietnam War-era are also referred to as secret-war veterans, Yang said. They fought surreptitiously for the CIA in Laos and subsequently faced persecution.

Organizers hope the project will be complete by May 2016, to mark the 40th anniversary of Hmong refugees arriving in central Wisconsin.

“(We) feel very excited about its progress,” Yang said. “Now that the monument design is done, we can move to the fundraising and construction stages of the project.”


Information from: Wausau Daily Herald Media, https://www.wausaudailyherald.com

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