WASHINGTON — Vang Pao's final battle is being fought over one of America's most hallowed grounds — Arlington National Cemetery.
In a lobbying campaign with overt and covert fronts, lawyers, lawmakers and former military officers are all pressing the Obama administration to grant the late Hmong general a burial at Arlington. Still, it looks like a tough call.
"We don't always get the results we want, but we'll take a two-by-four to as many people as we can," Scott Nishioki, chief of staff to Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said Wednesday.
On Friday, mourners will begin a six-day funeral at the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center in Central California.
For 15 years, starting sometime around 1961, Vang Pao led Hmong troops alongside CIA officers and U.S. Special Forces. The Americans who served with him uniformly applauded his valor.
Even so, Vang Pao's final resting spot has yet to be determined.
"There is some controversy to this," Nishioki acknowledged.
As of Wednesday, neither the Defense Department nor the Department of Veterans Affairs had indicated when or how they might rule on the request for an Arlington burial waiver.
Arlington may grant burial waivers for those whose military service "directly and substantially benefited" the U.S. military, according to cemetery guidelines.