April 30th, 1975, North Vietnamese tanks took over the streets of South Viet Nam. Thousands of families left their homes and relatives behind and fled. Mary Hoang and her family were not so lucky.
Mary Hoang said "They buried mines and blew up grenades so no one can come in or get out, so we couldn't leave".
One grenade nearly killed her family.
Mary said "I was so scared. I was shaking, like my soul had left me. After that, I was determined to find a way to get my family out".
Mary and her husband sold their gold and other valuables to buy a boat. One day, they packed up their 11 children and escaped with some friends. Their journey took a horrifying turn, when pirates from Thailand terrorized them.
Mary said "They came and stripped us of all our clothes, and they searched us for any valuables. The next day, another band of pirates abducted one of the girls".
During their five-days adrift at sea, they were attacked four times.
Mary said "I would take anything that looked and smelled dirty and smear them on my children's faces, so they wouldn't touch my children".
Then, the situation turned worse. The pirates abducted three more women and raped them over and over again. One of them was Mary's 20-year old stepdaughter.
Mary said "I looked at my daughter and cried, because I was helpless. If we tried to pull her back, they would kick us. We could only pray that God would help us".
Their prayers were answered. After days of living in fear, with nothing to eat and not knowing where they were going, their boat reached the Thailand mainland. The family lived in refugee camps in Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong, then moved to the United States.
Mary's children are all grown, many with children of their own. Mary says to this day, she never regrets leaving her homeland behind to find a better life for her family.
Mary said "We knew we needed to leave, even if we died, because we knew God would be with us and we would be fine".
Mary Hoang has another sad memory of the Viet Nam War. Her first husband was shot and killed while serving in the South Vietnamese military.