6-Dec-2022 Source: California National Guard
California National Guard’s first Hmong UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 1 Ge Xiong rode as the Grand Marshall of the Central Valley’s Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 11, 2022. This year marked the 103rd anniversary of Fresno’s recognition of its veterans and military members.
Although Xiong is frequently described as humble by friends and family, this isn’t the first time he has been honored for his achievements.
In 2020, Xiong and his air crew received the Distinguished Flying Cross for remarkable acts of valor in rescuing more than 200 people from the Creek Fire, near California’s Shaver Lake.
The award is the Pentagon’s highest honor for extraordinary aerial achievement, and dates to 1927. Xiong’s recent recognitions are a far cry from him and his wife’s early beginnings as American immigrants.
Both were born in an overcrowded refugee’s camps in Thailand during the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The Hmong people are a minority ethnic group who originated in China. After the Vietnam War, the withdrawal left thousands of Hmong in danger because of their alliance with the United States.
Under the new regime, they became the target of retaliation which forced them to trek across the deep Mekong River into Thailand to escape persecution.
During the 1970’s through the 1990’s, a large percentage of Hmong resettled in countries like the United States, Canada, France, and Australia. In 2004, the last wave of Hmong refugees came to America through government implemented refugee programs, said Xiong.
“Our parents fled from the Laotian communist government in search of better opportunities and a better life. Like many first-generation Hmong Americans, we shared the same struggles and hardship,” said Xiong. “There was plenty of times I remember when I wore the same clothes and shoes and I remember I was always hungry.”
Xiong’s wife, Pangia’s resettled in Fresno with her parents, where they were one of the first Hmong migrant farmers in the early 90s. Her family now owns a u-pick farm, where they grow strawberries, Asian specialty vegetables and seasonal vegetables and fruits, said Pangia.
She is also in the Cal Guard, enlisting one year prior to her husband. Joining the military was something she planned after high school, having spent four years in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp.
“The Hmong culture is very stern. Gender roles are firmly implanted and conform to the idea of woman as the homemaker. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged higher education and supported my career choice,” said Pangia, who is a senior supply sergeant with Alpha Company, 1106th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group based out of Fresno.
Xiong joined the military, because “I honestly did not have a plan on what I was going to do after high school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. My grades declined, attendance deteriorated and eventually I dropped out during my freshman year in high school,” he said.
He quickly realized what a future would hold without education and got back into school to obtain his diploma, he said.
“I enlisted in the Cal Guard right after high school and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made,” said Xiong. He is assigned to Detachment 1, Bravo Company, 1-140th Assault Helicopter Battalion, Fresno, CA.
From troubling, early experiences in a refugee camp, to receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross, to leading the city’s patriotic parade as the Grand Marshall, Chief Warrant Officer 1 Ge Xiong and his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Pangie Xiong are where they want to be.