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'An American Hero' – Linda resident fought in Secret Army
He fought for the United States as part of a special guerrilla unit in what would be called the "Secret Army" — and his burial after funeral services conclude today in Marysville will be in the military section of the Sutter Cemetery.
Ge Yang, who died at the age of 60 on Dec. 16 at his home in Linda, served as a lieutenant in the Royal Armed Forces in Laos supporting American forces during the Vietnam War. Three days of traditional Hmong services will conclude at noon Monday at Lipp and Sullivan Chapel in Marysville.
His daughter, Hlee Cruckson, 28, said he is known as the first Hmong American Vietnam veteran in this area to receive a U.S. military memorial service.
"He will be honored and recognized as an American veteran would be," Cruckson said of her father, who had lived in Yuba County since 1985. Yang served as chairman of the Marysville chapter of Lao Veterans of America.
His 11 children, who range in age from 40 to 14, will be at Yang's funeral.
He died from heart problems, his daughter said.
Yang as a young man served in the Secret Army, so named because it was years before its role during the Vietnam War was acknowledged. William E. Colby, former director of the CIA, spoke to Congress in 1994 about the "heroism and effectiveness of the Hmong struggle."
Wangyee Vang, 63, president of the Fresno-based Lao Veterans of America, said Thursday that the CIA recruited Yang to serve.
"He was one of the outstanding members of the Secret Army," Vang said.
Cruckson, who served in the U.S. Army from 2001 to '06, said even many members of the American military were unaware of the Hmong effort during the Vietnam War.
"I had to explain a lot," she said.
The 2001 Marysville High School graduate remembered her father's love for his family and the United States.
"He was very proud to be here," Cruckson said. "He loved it — everything, the freedom."
Yang's tasks at the family home in Linda included repairing the fence, building birdhouses and on cars — knowledge he shared with his children.
"He taught us how to do everything," Cruckson recalled. "He spent a lot of time with us.
"He was very knowledgeable," she added. "He knew about a lot of things."
The weather and rural areas around Linda reminded him of his home in Laos, she said.
Cruckson sat at a table in the family home and went through letters that included one to Yang from Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Fresno.
"I thank you for your service to the United States of America in its time of need," Cardoza wrote. "You are truly an American hero."
A separate 2003 congressional tribute noted the Laotian unit's courageous defense of its homeland against communist aggression and "the long overdue national recognition and honor" military members rightly deserve.
Yang as he grew older had difficulty walking, his daughter recalled, talking about how he still had shrapnel in his ankles because of his military service.
"He told us a lot of war stories," Cruckson said. "When I was little, I used to think it was annoying. So I didn't listen."
"Now I wish I would have," she said.
CONTACT reporter Ryan McCarthy at 749-4707.