Hundreds of Laotians with ties to the Khammouane Province will gather in Murfreesboro on Saturday, Aug. 31-Sunday, Sept. 1 to reunite and celebrate their heritage and culture.
Countless Laotians were scattered around the world as a result of the Vietnam War, hence the purpose of the reunion, said Stacy Mountry of Rutherford County, one of the organizers. The event is called the Lao Khammouane 4th Reunion. The gatherings have been held in different cities every other year, Mountry said: previous ones were in Montreal (2013); Fort Worth, Texas (2015); and Elgin, Ill. (2017).
Nearly 500 people have registered for the Lao Khammouane 4th Reunion, which will be held at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Mountry said. Planning has taken nearly a year and a half, she said.
The event, which also is called the Khammouane Family and Friends Reunion, was established and organized in 2012 by the refugees from the province.
“Every two years we come together to reminisce,” she said. “Our goal and objectives are to reunite and connect families and friends affected by the war conflict and provide reunification.”
Rutherford County Commissioner Chantho Sourinho, who is from the Champasak Province of Laos, said he was invited but already had a trip planned. He said there are several Laotian groups here, and he attends events when he can.
The Khammouane event consists of a formal banquet dinner with live entertainment, guest morlum/luktung singer, traditional dancers, and performers of different traditional Laotian musical instruments and folk songs, Mountry said. Organizers hope to “bring joyous memories of their country to the elders attending Khammouane 4th Family and Friends Reunion.”
The guest singer is Phongsavanh Saiyavong, Mountry said. He is from Khammouane Province and fled Laos and became a refugee. He has been singing traditional music since the age of 15 and has recorded several albums. He performs all over the United States for the Laotian communities.
Mountry said the reunion will have a special meaning for her parents. Her father, Bouaphanh Mountry, served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Secret Army in Laos for the United States during the war. The U.S. House of Representatives on May 14, 1998, issued a commendation and citation to honor Bouaphanh Mountry for that service.
He was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency and Surrogate Army special forces in 1971, according to his military discharge paperwork.
Bouaphanh Mountry was captured and was a prisoner of war, his daughter said. After he was released, the family fled the country in the middle of the night. They lived in a refugee camp before migrating to the United States.
Mountry said her father and mother, Somvang Mountry, were both born in Thakhek, Khammouane Province, Laos. Thakhek is a former trading port in central Laos. It's on the Mekong River, bordering Thailand.
More information on the reunion is available online at bit.ly/2H2ERl9 or by searching Facebook for the page titled, “Khammouane 4th Reunion.”