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Paul Her: A Hmong Man's Refugee Story
Paul Her was born in Laos in 1955. The American CIA recruited Mr. Her and other young men to fight and support the Americans during the Secret War. The Secret War was a 15-year covert CIA operation backed by the US, a war against the Vietnamese government. After the Americans fled the country, many of the Hmong fighters who were recruited had to keep running for their lives.
As Mr. Her recalls:
“It was 1975, the month of May, when the guerrilla war started. The 15th was the day General Vang Pao left [our home country]. June of 1975 was when other men and I left our village and joined Xong Zoua, one of the guerrilla leaders. The Vietnamese soldiers attacked us around the time when the corn was ready to be harvested. There were only 20 of us. We were under attack for 8 days and 8 nights. The Vietnamese soldiers were defeated and retreated back to their camps.”
During the war, there were many people who surrendered to the Vietnamese government and were able to live in villages under governmental supervision. Those that did not surrender were forced to flee into the jungle of Laos and Vietnam:
"I was in the jungle with family and friends, fighting for my life...we were all fighting for our lives. It was 1980 when I flee into jungle so that I could come to Thailand. May 27, 1980 was when my family and I arrived at Ban Vinai, a refugee camp in Thailand." —Paul Her
Mr. Her continues to talk about his life in Thailand. He explains why he and his family had decided to come to the United States. At first, Mr. Her did not want to come to America and planned to stay in Thailand. However, he was presented with only two options and one could see pain in his eyes when he discussed them:
"The Thai government provided the refugees with two options...The Hmong people could either stay and return to Laos or go to America." —Paul Her
Paul Her sacrificed his only chance to see his homeland, and came to the United States of America for a chance to re-live life without having to constantly run for his life.
Regardless of what Mr. Her decided, he and his family were not able to stay in the refugee camps in Thailand any longer. He explained how he had to make a tough decision:
"I either can take my family back to my homeland, where I know the place from every ant hole to every mountain, but we would have to live in fear and fight to survive...[Or] I could choose to bring my family to a land of the unknown and start a new life...away from guns and wars." —Paul Her
Mr. Her had decided to come to America because of the latter reason. Mr. Her and his family arrived in Los Angeles at "8:30 am on December 8th, 1992."1 He wanted his family to start a new life and for his children to have the opportunity that he never had. He sacrificed his only chance to see his homeland, and came to the United States of America for a chance to re-live life without having to constantly run for his life.
Interview with Paul Her on June 2nd, 2013. ↩