Team 195 knows there’s more to FIRST than just building great robots, which is why we are continuing our veteran outreach by participating in the Bristol Veterans project to build a national monument for Laos/Hmong soldiers of the Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU). Most Americans know of the Vietnam War, but not everyone realizes the impact SGU soldiers had on it. In fact, many of these brave soldiers lost their own lives while saving American soldiers. On October 12, 2016, the CyberKnights were honored to meet and hear stories from Brigadier General Sar Phouthasack of SGU and Colonel Carl Venditto of United Marine Corps Reserve Retired. The two talked to us about their personal experiences as well as the importance of recognizing all that veterans have done for our country. It was, of course, very moving to hear about their experiences, as well as those of one of our team’s mentors who saw firsthand what the country was going through.
Laos, a country in between Thailand and Vietnam that was home to less than 3 million people at the time, is still facing dangers 30 years after the war. For nine years during the war, Laos was bombed every eight minutes, making it the most heavily bombed country in history. One citizen stated that the “bombs fell like rain.” Not only did over 30,000 soldiers give up their lives to aid the US, but innocent civilians were victims as well. With all these bombs being dropped, there were bound to be several that did not immediately detonate. Today, there are still people, mostly children, who are losing limbs or dying when they come across one of these bombs. In addition to the constant bombings, many Laotians were either driven from their homes or had to flee. But without the Laotian soldiers, the list of over 58,000 Americans on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial would be much, much longer. As a country, we owe these veterans recognition and respect.
Fortunately, these brave allies are finally receiving the recognition they deserve. This fall, President Obama, the first American President to visit Laos, delivered a speech to the people of Laos. More locally, in New Britain, Connecticut, over 200 people came together at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 511 for speeches and ceremonies to commemorate the veterans of the “secret war.” And of course, Team 195 is working towards a national monument to be built in honor of the Laotian soldiers.
Once again, we thank Brigadier General Sar Phouthasack and Colonel Carl Venditto for coming to speak to us. We appreciate all they’ve done!