Vigil for General Vang Pao
Gen. Vang Pao is considered the father of the Hmong people.

On Friday night, hundreds of his children remembered him with reverence, like John Moore, who served under the general in Laos back in 1961.

"He leads us and flee the Hmong people from laos to this place of our freedom. And today, he has left us," Moore said through an interpreter, before breaking into tears.

There were many like Moore, who were overcome with grief. They consider Pao, who was 81, a hero.

During the war, the CIA had recruited Pao to lead a Hmong guerilla army. They battled communists for 14 years. His jungle army is credited with saving thousands of U.S. lives.

But there were wounds the general suffered that cut deeper than any inflicted from the war.

In 2007, the U.S. government charged Vang Pao and 10 others with plotting the violent overthrow of communist Laos.

"A Hmong always say you use the buffalo to pull the dirt, the rice paddle. But once you done it, you kill the buffalo, and I think he will not say that, but that's the deep feeling that he had," said Vaming Xiong, a follower of Vang Pao.

Several thousands rallied on several occassions to support the general outside the federal courthouse, before all charges were finally dropped two years later.

"We have to pay tribute to him, pay our respect that what he has done. And since he passed away yesterday, people, it's so sad throughout this nation."