MADISON – The Wisconsin State Assembly will recognize former Weston Elementary School Principal and We Help War Victims founder James “Jim” Harris as a Hometown Hero during its upcoming floor session on Feb. 17. 

Jim Harris, at left, with Hmong elders. Photo courtesy Marathon County Historical Society.

Harris, who was nominated by his state representative Patrick Snyder, R-Schofield, has worked to preserve Hmong culture in central Wisconsin and clear former mine fields in Laos.

“It’s remarkable how Jim’s routine interactions with his Hmong students eventually led him to save countless lives thousands of miles away,” said Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, who selected him for the award. “His story is proof that anyone can make a difference, even overseas, if they put their mind to it.”

While principal at Weston Elementary School, Harris became interested in Hmong culture after meeting several students of Laotian descent. Harris has subsequently dedicated over two decades of his life to preserving Hmong culture. He has made 22 trips to Laos, bringing back numerous artifacts with him, and opened the From Laos to America Museum in Wausau. Harris also founded the We Help War Victims nonprofit to clear former mine fields left over from the Vietnam War. These efforts both in Wisconsin and abroad have helped preserve Hmong culture for thousands to learn from and enjoy.

“Jim has dedicated the past two decades to preserving, promoting and helping the Hmong community – both in Wausau and worldwide,” Snyder said in a news release. “Recognizing Jim before the state Assembly is the least we can do to honor his important work.”

The Wisconsin State Assembly created the Hometown Heroes program to identify and recognize people from around the state who work to make their communities a better place. Award winners are invited to the State Capitol and given an opportunity to speak on the Assembly floor as a special guest.