"Teb Chaws Vam Meej" ("The Land of Promise")
By Tech. Sgt. Lynette Olivares, 133rd Airlift Wing
/ Published July 28, 2016
St. Paul, Minn. -- Minnesota has embraced its Hmong population with a variety of commemorative events open to the public and a number of restaurants serving traditional Hmong cuisine. The Hmong community in Twin Cities cherishes its ties to family, friends and neighbors.
For a few Hmong Minnesotans and military members, the passion for family can be found in their proud military service.
"I joined the Air Guard aside from active duty over other branch because I personally, am a very family-oriented person," said Airman 1st Class Andrew Meng Lo, a Knowledge Operations Manager at the Minnesota Air National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing. "I really wanted to pursue my dreams and be with my family through every step along the way. That way if anything ever happened where they or I were to be present, I could share that moment with them."
Lo is one of less than a handful of Hmong members within the 1200-person unit in St. Paul, Minn. Tech Sgt. Soua Yang, a Aircraft Hydraulic Systems Craftsman at the 133rd Maintenance Group joined the Guard after his active duty service to live closer to his family.
"The military has helped me with just about every aspect of my life, my overall fitness, my education, and a better understanding of the world with greater respect for my country," said Yang.
Joining the military helps many find purpose, strength and greater motivation than they could on their own. For Yang and Lo, the experience helps them achieve personal goals and exceed some of their peers.
"Being the oldest of five, I've lived my life feeling obligated to my family and try to be the best I can be for them, and that has distracted me a lot on my own goals, dreams, and desires," said Lo, a native of East St. Paul, Minn. "The military has shown me on how I can succeed as an individual and start doing things for myself. I now have a better understanding of how the world works after being in the Guard for only a year, compared to some of my other high school classmates."
Sense of belonging to family may come easy for those from typically-large Hmong families. Belonging to your culture and heritage may not be something so easily assimilated for some people. The military has given these two Airmen a renewed sense of purpose.
"Growing up I've always felt a little lost with little to no sense of belonging even though I was born and raised in Massachusetts," said Yang, a native of Brooklyn Park. "This was mainly due to the fact that the Hmong people had no true country of ethnic origin, it was hard trying to explain to others where Hmong people came from."
"I remember being mad whenever I would watch the Olympics and see everyone carrying their national flags, but the military has brought me a long way since then. It has taught me to love and accept this country that I do so honorably serve and I am now more proud than ever to carry the US Flag on my back."
"Being in the military has given me a purpose in life, before joining, I had no goals or passion for anything of any sort," said Lo. "My time away at training taught me how to live for myself, and not in the need of other people."