This month marked the 10th anniversary since the death of Lao American veteran John Douangdara, who served as a K-9 handler with Seal Team 6. Members of this unit killed Osama Bin Laden earlier that year.
On Aug. 6, 2011, the Warfare Specialist and Master at Arms Petty Officer 1st Class was killed along with his K-9 Bart, 33 other passengers, and five crew members of a military helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan. He was buried in Arlington Cemetery.
In South Sioux City, Nebraska a memorial dog park was dedicated to him and his K-9. During the 45th anniversary of the Lao Diaspora in 2020, I took time to visit and remember his journey, one of many stories since the end of the war in 1975 that sent so many of us across the globe.
I read a few poems from several of the Lao poets and myself there, but at the time I didn’t have a good camcorder microphone on hand, so that moment is lost, but in a way that seems fitting. “A SEAL Story,” from my collection Before We Remember We Dream (Sahtu Press, 2020) and “The Last War Poem,” from Bamboo Among the Oaks (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002) were among the poems I read from my own work. I hope it won’t be too long before I get a chance to return.