Excerpted from "Hmong Voices in Montana" by the Missoula Museum of the Arts Foundation. Susan Lindbergh Miller, Bounthavy Kiatoukaysy Thao, Tou Yang, editors. 1992.
"A little-known fact is that Smoke Jumpers from Montana were recruited by the CIA to work in Laos. Some collaborated with General Vang Pao who would later move his family to Montana.
Among these was Jerrold B. Daniels from Missoula who, in the early 1960's, became the liaison officer between Vang Pao and the CIA. For twenty years he worked closely with the Hmong and became a trusted friend. When the communists took over Laos in 1975 and United States pulled out, thousands of Hmong fled across the Mekong river to Thailand where they lived in refugee camps.
Until his death in 1982, Jerry Daniels remained in Southeast Asia. As chief Ethnic Affairs Officer in charge of the Highlander and Lao refugees, he helped his Hmong friends both in the camps and in resettlement in the United States.
Jerry Daniels died at the age of 41 in his home in Bangkok on April 29, 1982. His body was shipped back to Montana where Hmong friends and colleagues gathered from all over the United States to pay final tribute to their beloved friend at a traditional Hmong funeral ceremony.
This eulogy was written by Moua Cha and Lue Yang at the time of Jerry Daniel's funeral and placed at the top of Jerry's picture with a floral wreath given by the Hmong Field Liaison Officers.
From 1961 until the Communist takeover of Laos, our friend Jerry Daniels, dedicated his every ounce of energy towards helping the Hmong, the free people of Laos, improve the quality of our lives. Jerry gladly accepted life in our rural villages in order to better understand our problems, aspirations and dreams. Jerry shared with us the dream that one day life would return to normal and the Hmong people would be able to once again enjoy the beauty and serenity of the high mountains of Laos.
Sadly, the dream was not to be. In 1975, the anti-Communist government of Laos fell to the invaders and the Hmong people along with our American friend had to flee for our lives to seek refuge in Thailand.
Jerry continued to serve the people he loved as a State Department official at the American Embassy in Bangkok. Jerry saw to it that the Hmong were given the opportunity to come to the U.S. to begin a new life. We have the courage to meet the challenges which we must face because our friend Jerry taught us well. Jerry was not only our mentor, but our friend as well. He dedicated more than twenty years of his life to us and we grew to know him well. Not only in name, but in spirit too. I guess we love Jerry so much because we always knew that he honestly cared.
Jerry's life came to a premature end in Bangkok, still serving the people he had grown to love. We all owe Jerry a lot and will miss him very much. Each of us in our own way will wish our friend a sad farewell.
So until we meet again- Goodbye old friend.
A Letter From Jerry Daniels (1941-1982)
CIA Ethnic Affairs Officer in charge of Highlander and Lao Refugees
Excerpted from a letter to his Hmong friends in Namphong refugee camp, Thailand, December 31, 1975 for the first Hmong New Year after the fall of the Lao government to the Communists and the subsequent American withdrawal from Laos.
Please allow me this opportunity to wish all of you the best of luck and the happiest New Years for 1976. While to many of you the future looks bleak and discouraging, I am confident the Hmong people, provided with the adequate resources, can and will start a new and interesting life this year...
I believe the future life seeds to be planted this year during the Hmong resettlement and readjustment to the changing times, should not scatter you in mind and heart, but rather should result in better educating and preparing your future generations on how to best cope with the ever changing world situations as they apply to the Hmong.
This is not accomplished by striving for the same old things of yesteryear, or caring only about your individual needs. But rather by collectively looking ahead, and in addition to maintaining your same basic traditional ways of life, you also expand horizons through further education, travel, acquiring new skills and interests, etc...
By following that road which expands wisdom and following that road only can the proud Hmong name and heritage survive with dignity...
I hope you all believe me when I say that your welfare has always been, is now, and will always continue to be of the highest priority interest for me and my fellow USA co-workers. I still remember that I and perhaps other americans who are representatives of the United States government, have promised you, the Hmong People, that if you fight for us, if we win, things will be fine. But if we lose, we will take care of you...
Admittedly we may not always be able to assist you as much as we would like, however when we fall short it certainly is not because of forgetting or not trying, two things that none of us who have lived with you will ever be guilty of for the remainder of our days.
Again, Happy New Year, and the very best of luck for all of the Hmong, not only this year but for many thousands to come.