Vets Serving Vets Install Connects Cultures and Warms Hearts in Sacramento


March 11, 2016

GRID Alternatives North Valley kicked off our Troops to Solar program, after a successful veteran pizza and orientation event at Volunteers of America’s beautiful Veterans Service Center, with a Vets Serving Vets installation at the Vang household in Sacramento on March 1st and 2nd.

Chong Vang and his family were gracious hosts, enthusiastic about receiving their solar electric system and becoming part of the GRID family. During lunchtime, the GRID team gathered together with the Vang family in their living room to hear Vang’s stories about serving alongside American forces in the Vietnam War, translated by GRID Outreach Coordinator Xiong Lee, and to view pictures of his memories from that time.

Having grown up in the Hmong community in the jungles of Laos, Mr. Vang, along with many others, was in a unique position to support the US military in the Vietnam War. The American mission to overthrow the Laotian and Vietnamese governments meshed with the interests of the Hmong people, who at the time, hoped to be acknowledged as an autonomous group, free from communist rule. Their specialized knowledge of the hill country allowed them to disrupt supply lines and support downed American pilots. Every Hmong family sent some of their men to fight in the war. Mr. Vang and his brother elected to act as representatives of their family. Eventually recruited by the CIA, Vang worked undercover in Vietnam until he was captured as a prisoner of war in 1968 and placed in a prison where, he notes, he didn’t see sunlight for a very long time.

Amazingly, Mr. Vang escaped from prison amid the chaos of a mass shooting in the city in which he was housed. A girlfriend hid him away in her family’s home until he was safe. He was able to escape to Thailand with his family, and eventually, here to the United States.

Mr. Vang shared with the group that he considers America his true home. American soldiers are like brothers and sisters to him, as if they had once shared the same womb. He said that if he were still young enough, he would enroll in the US Army to serve and protect his home.

This spirit of togetherness carried over from this inspiring family into the GRID installation experience. The opportunity for community building due to this installation was remarkable, a heart-warming time for connection. Everyone was moved by the experience, the homeowners, the trainees, and the GRID staff. This is the essence of the Vets Serving Vets aspect of the Troops to Solar program, coming together around common experiences and goals for the good of the community. After lunch, our team of veteran trainees got back on the roof and continued with the installation, their hearts full. It’s this element of connection in everyday moments that fuels our work for a more harmonious, just, and equitable community.

Thanks to Wells Fargo for its support of our Troops to Solar program.