Fort McCoy observes May 2024 as Asian-American, Pacific Islander Heritage Month with observance

By Scott SturkolJune 11, 2024

Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
1 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
2 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
3 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
4 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
5 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
6 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
7 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
8 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
9 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
10 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort McCoy Celebrates 2024 Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
11 / 11 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Equal Opportunity Office celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a special event featuring speakers from the Hmmob Cultural and Community Agency, Tony Yang, Xao Chor Vang, Nao Tou Lor and Za Xa Vue, on May 21, 2024, at McCoy’s Community Center, Fort McCoy WI. The event highlighted the rich heritage of the Hmmob community, telling attendees stories of cultural preservation, resilience as well as sharing insights into Hmoob beliefs and traditions. (U.S. Army Photo by Claudia Neve, Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office) (Photo Credit: Claudia Neve) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort McCoy community members gathered at McCoy’s Community Center on May 21 to observe May as Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

The 2024 Fort McCoy AAPI Observance, organized by Master Sgt. Ana Guzman-Gregory with the Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity Office, featured Tony Yang and other members of the Hmoob Cultural and Community Agency of La Crosse, Wis.

Yang and three other members from the agency gave a special presentation to talk about Hmong culture, and much more. According to the agency's description, as seen on LinkedIn, it was originally founded in 1982 as the La Crosse Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, Inc. (HMAA).

“The HMAA's primary role at that time was to assist Southeast Asian refugees, most of whom were Hmong, adjust to life in the La Crosse area,” the description states. “The HMAA grew and expanded services into areas of translation and interpretation, job placement and development, elderly services, youth services, domestic violence prevention, health screening and referral, advocacy, and others.”

The Department of Defense (DOD) officially stated its observance of AAPI Heritage Month in a presentation by the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), which is headquartered at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla.

“The DOD pays tribute to the generations of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who have enriched our country through their countless triumphs, sacrifices, and important cultures and heritages,” the presentation states. “This group encompass a large, varied number of cultures, including Americans who trace their ancestry to Asia and the many islands of the Pacific Ocean.”

The DEOMI presentation also stated the Federal Asian Pacific American Council announced the 2024 theme for monthly observance was, “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation.”

“This theme honors the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders whose pioneering spirits have contributed to the nation’s prosperity while overcoming cultural barriers.”

Yang took the time to explain the rich history of the Hmong community, the areas in Asia where they originally are from, and how many of them arrived in the United States and other countries.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has a page that mirrors what Yang discussed in his presentation at https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS1754, the “Hmong are a Southeast Asian ethnic group that immigrated to Wisconsin as refugees in the 1970s and 1980s, after the Vietnam War. In Asia, most Hmong live in isolated mountain villages in Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

“During the Vietnam War, the United States recruited Hmong people to help fight the North Vietnamese,” the web page states. “When the United States withdrew in 1975, thousands of Hmong fled to refugee camps in Thailand. Resettlement organizations helped many immigrate to the United States. In 2005, Wisconsin had the third largest Hmong population in the country, after Minnesota and California. The largest Hmong communities in Wisconsin grew up in La Crosse, Sheboygan, Green Bay, Wausau, and Milwaukee.”

“Life was difficult in the refugee camps … it was hard to live there,” Yang said. He also said the areas where his people now live can be attributed to a lot of things, such as climate, farming, where they had sponsors when they first arrived, and even rivers.

La Crosse, for example, has rivers and bluffs and it’s the kind of area Hmong people like, Yang said.

And in the years since immigrating to the U.S., Yang added that the community is growing.

“The latest data from the 2020 Census shows there are now more than 253,000 Hmong people living in the United States,” he said.

During the May 2016 Fort McCoy AAPI Observance, guest speaker Pafoua Her discussed how she and her family came to the United States as political refugees in 1976 when she was 4 years old.

“It was at the end of the war the Viet Cong realized who the people were who were helping the U.S., and they (issued) a directive that all Hmong people be annihilated, including children (and) elders,” Her said in a story written by Aimee Malone for The Real McCoy newspaper. “So that began our trail of tears.”

Her said in the story that her family was one of the few to get out of Laos quickly. While her father was airlifted out of Laos with U.S. troops, a scout was sent to find his family.

“Hmong fleeing the Viet Cong and Pathet Lao had to make their way through the jungle and cross the Mekong River to Thailand before they could be considered safe,” the article states. “Her’s family was told someone would be waiting for them at the river to help them get across.”

“We were the lucky ones because we didn’t have to swim across in a tube,” she said at the observance in 2016. “We didn’t have to swim across with branches, trying to tie our children to ourselves.”

It was experiences like those of Her’s family that Yang expressed as ones to remember about the strength of the Hmong people. As he said, “they’re strong people.”

Col. Stephen Messenger, Fort McCoy Garrison commander, said he was humbled to hear the words of the presenters from La Crosse.

“I love it … it was a story of independence, of resiliency, and of new beginnings, and it was awesome,” Messenger said.

See additional video and audio coverage of the 2024 Fort McCoy AAPI Observance by visiting https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/FMPAO. See more about Her’s story by visiting the June 10, 2016, edition of The Real McCoy at https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/42161.

See the DOD spotlight page for the monthly observance by visiting https://www.defense.gov/Spotlights/Asian-American-Native-Hawaiian-and-Pacific-Islander-Heritage-Month.

Fort McCoy’s motto is to be the “Total Force Training Center.”

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin.

The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services nearly every year since 1984.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”

Also try downloading the Digital Garrison app to your smartphone and set “Fort McCoy” or another installation as your preferred base. Fort McCoy is also part of Army’s Installation Management Command where “We Are The Army’s Home.”

(Claudia Neve with the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office contributed to this article.)