APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Northeast Wisconsin is home to many Hmong refugees including the first Hmong officer in the Appleton Police Department.
Sargent Chue Lee Thao of the Appleton Police Department said, “Well I immigrated to the United States in 1982.”
His dad died just after they immigrated to the United States when he was only ten years old and as an older sibling channeled that responsibility into eventually joining the Appleton Police Department.
“I decided to go to law enforcement as a way to continue to do the right thing, continue to serve people, continue to contribute to the community and also for my family,” said Thao.
He eventually earned a Bachelors in Criminal Justice after working hard in school while also learning the English language.
Thao said, “And so with no knowledge of English we all began our ABC and 123’s, in middle school for me, and that just propelled me to try to do the right thing as an example for my brothers, my family and try to in essence pursue the American dream.”
He said his past experiences during the Vietnam War are what motivated his current successes.
“After the war, we immigrated to Thailand in a refugee camp living surrounded by barb wires and so I remember vividly crossing rivers, crossing jungles and getting to the camp,” said Thao. “And those life experiences just give me the gratitude of being able to immigrate to the United States here and try to seek a better life.”
Sargent Thao said he believes everyone should get involved in any way they can in order to build a stronger community especially in the face of the recent uptick in hate against Asian Americans across the country.
“When we look beyond the skin, beyond the hair color, we are all the same and I think it’s unfortunate that those things happen I think because of misunderstanding,” said Thao. “For those who want to look for the difference they may find one or two but for those who want to find that we are really similar in a lot of ways, we have a lot more common than different.”