Madame May Song Vang was born on February 5, 1951 to Nai Kong Chou Moua and Yee Lee. She was raised in the remote village called Ban Phou Dou, Province of Xieng Khouang, Laos before the Vietnam War started. The Laotian political entanglement widespread from the international Vietnam War conflicts forced the family to move from place to place in the northern part of Laos, then to Thailand, and lastly, to the United States of America. She had 8 sisters and 5 brothers, and was the fourth born of the 13 siblings.
A fighter and challenger like her great-grand father, Ntxoov Kais Muas, a chief of Canton appointed by the French authority in 1930 for the Nonghet District in Xieng khouang, Laos, she already began to dream about improving the living conditions of her family. She then defied the odds and went against the traditional favoritism toward sons over daughters to go to school, and was one of the first female students to set the path for Hmong girls to have the opportunity to attend school. Because of her bright educational advancement and dedicated personality, she was admitted into the nurse training program and stared her nursing career at the Samthong Hospital at the age of 15 in 1966. This hospital became the second largest hospital in Laos during the period of time. It was partly funded by the American CIA Support Mission in Laos. The town Samthong, Lima Site 20 for Air America-pilots’s secret missions, was the largest town in the province of Xieng Khouang in 1968.
Click here to watch Chi Neng Vang, youngest son of General Vang Pao, gave an opening speech at the funeral service for his mother, May Song Vang.
Click here to watch Chi Neng Vang, youngest son of General Vang Pao, gave speech during family time at the funeral service for his mother, May Song Vang.
Madame May Song Vang completed the registered nursing program at Sisawavong Medical School in Vientiane, Laos in 1971. While the war got twisted into different political angles and prolonged into its heaviest battles and largest forms, this young nurse became ten times busier than before. Handling many responsibilities as a mid-wife, head nurse, and physician-assistant, she worked tirelessly for many years to help wounded soldiers, women, children, and patients from the general public. She worked with many different American doctors, many international Doctors Without Borders, and directly with Doctor Khammueng Tournalom, a medical doctor graduated from France. Regardless of her heavy work load, she managed to pursue her professional career by attending classes in the evening. Since she is the first person to earn a decent salary, all her money was sent home to support the family. She was an innovator in her home country of Laos and became a great role model for the community.
Out of luck, love, or miracle, in 1973, May Song married General Vang Pao, an iconic figure in the Hmong community and a U.S. ally during the Vietnam War. “He loves me dearly and never missed his chance to offer me flowers on Valentine’s Days, Birthdays, and Mother’s Days, ” What made me miss him the most is the shadow of this prestigious man holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting at the airport exit door during each of my returns home from traveling.”
Standing side-by-side with her husband throughout the war and life’s challenges, she journeyed with him until his last moment when he passed away on January 6, 2011, in Fresno, CA. She was not only remarkable wife, mother, and grandmother to the family, but also a good female role model for the Hmong community at large. She was known to be a very compassionate, kind and generous individual. For the Hmong people, she was the Hmong First Lady, who always reached out to the poor, orphaned and disadvantaged individuals.
May Song Vang assumed her husband’s roles after his passing. She continued to carry on her husband’s legacy and vision. She urged the Hmong people to be productive citizens, to be united, and to love and support one another.
She encouraged youngsters to stay in school and pursue higher education. She was actively involved in many social functions and events across the nation and with many non-profit organizations. Undoubtedly, May Song became the Mother of the Hmong people and one of the most influential figures in the Hmong community.
May Song worked every closely with Fresno city’s community leaders and elected officials so that a new elementary school in southeast Fresno could be named after her husband. Successfully, “Vang Pao Elementary School” was granted.
Madame May Song Vang established the GVP Foundation in 2012, a new non-profit organization dedicated to supporting disadvantaged families as part of her husband’s vision. She served as the President of the foundation.
Madame May Song Vang is survived by her three sons: Chu Long Vang, Chu Leng Vang, Chi Neng Vang, and seven grandchildren. “Mother May Song had made so many sacrifices for others and gave none to herself even until her last day and last breath,” Said Dr. Anne Vang. Senator Johson(WI), stated that Madame May Song Vang will be remembered by “all the people that she has helped and inspired during her notable life. Madame Vang, the wife of General Vang Pao, supported Hmong communities across the United States by honoring her husband’s legacy as a war hero and ally of the United States during the Vietnam War. She will be remembered and greatly missed.”