MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new state holiday expected to take effect in 2020 will recognize Hmong veterans who served alongside U.S. troops in the Vietnam War.

The Special Guerrilla Unit was part of the Secret War in Laos in the 1960s and 70s. Tens of thousands of Hmong soldiers were part of the CIA-led mission. An estimated 35,000 of them died.

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Among the fighters who lived was Capt. Shoua Xiong. He is the late grandfather of freshman DFL Rep. Tou Xiong.

“He fought so that I didn’t have to fight,” said Rep. Xiong, who represents Maplewood. “I’m so very fortunate and proud of my grandfather personally, and all the Hmong veterans.”

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The Twin Cities has the highest concentration of Hmong Americans at roughly 65,000 people. Their stories are embedded in Minnesota culture, but the people behind that history are starting to go.

Xiong’s incentive for a Hmong Special Guerrilla Units Remembrance Day was the idea that a generation of soldiers should not go unnoticed.

“Getting this to law allows them to get recognition that their service is being recognized and the war they fought was something meaningful,” Xiong said.

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May 14, 2020, will be the first day of remembrance, marking 45 years since the last day of the operation. Xiong hopes schools will use it to teach students about the Secret War.