Mary Le

A Boat Mother

Profilers: Jason Coronado, Raelynn Gardner, Corey Meadows

Profile Video

Read what Mary said:

In fact I was born in North Vietnam, and then in 1954 we have one war already and then we drove from north to South Vietnam because we did not like Communist.

The Communist from North, they run down to the South and they won. They won it and that is why we run again, and we escape from Vietnam.

You know that from 1954, when I was really young, I didn’t know, I just followed the parents. But anyway, 1975, a lots of thousands, a hundreds thousands Vietnamese escaped from Vietnam…. I am sorry when I thinking about that, really emotional, when we have to abandon all the things, the place, the homeland. Or some peoples have to leave the parents, even the childrens, the wives and husbands, and try to escape from Vietnam as much if we can because even we think that, well, when we go to the sea, maybe we die. Ninety-nine percent die, just one percent we can alive and go to another country but we still go, we have to go.

Let me see, 37 years already, I really still have a deep emotion about that. Also about my trip when I escaped from Vietnam it was really, really terrible.

And they call us boat peoples. When they talk about that so that mean, oh no, we know that you escaped from Vietnam by boat. Very later, like my boat, is break on the sea. And if we don’t have another boat from Malaysia, a big boat, we die all. We organized the boat, trying to escape from Vietnam, so they go over there a lot. We planning to go just 70 peoples, but at last, 149 peoples on that boat. More than double, so that being really, really overload. So that’s why we are on the sea for five days and six nights. Every day we just have two of these water, two for whole day, for each person. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Water and that’s it. So we really starving and we really thirsty.

And then he [her 4 year-old son] say, “Mom, I’m thirsty.” I say, “I know.” For a while, he say, “Mom, I’m thirsty”. I say, “I know, I’m thirsty too.” And for a while he say, “Mom, I’m thirsty,” you know, and I spank him. I spank him on here and then I remember forever that at that time I did that to him. I feel guilty on him now. Even until now. Spank the little boy, four years old, because he is thirsty. He didn’t know that…. That’s a, that’s a big, big mistake, that’s my fault when I did it to him like that, I feel really guilty until now.

During the trip, we also saw pirates, yeah, pirates. Thailand pirates! And you know that boat really big and pretty. They paint, they have something, something, and my boat like this. And at that time we have two big boat, one in the front, one in the back, and we in the middle. They don’t say anything. They just follow, follow, follow, follow us. Oh my gosh, everybody really scary, because we know that if they catch us, we have some story already, that mean even the childrens, eight years old, oh no, if fact the girls eight years old, they also rape her. Or the ladies over sixty years old already, they rape her too. So any woman, girls on the boat… was raped. So that’s why we so scary. So we pray, pray, pray a lot then, but we don’t know why, at last, they just go like this and they go. Oh my gosh, everybody just can’t say, can’t have enough thanks to talk to the Lord, the God.

After that, right now, we also, lots of people also say thanks to the America because we say that they think that they have a responsibility about the Vietnamese War so they more open their arms. When we go over to America, usually we can go to here by the sponsor from blood relatives. If you don’t have that, another situation is you a minor, you under 16 years old. The America accept all, all children under the minor come here and they would have some individual sponsor, like a husband and wife, or some peoples as sponsor of this child, that child, something. Or the church. The church, they also sponsor for a group or for some people. So they come here. Otherwise like me, I have my brother he live in here already, a sponsor for. When we come here, the sponsor have to take care of our life. But because we are refugee, so government also support us by like a welfare program, with the money, cash aid and food stamps. They support for us for the first time that when we come here. For a while, if we can sturdy, we can get a job. So little by little we get out of program. Like that. So also they have us one the first step like that to let us have a good situation to adjust to the life in here.


The Garden

Jason, Raelynn, and Mary

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Wow. Thanks for making the profile and video of my mom. I don’t even remember getting spanked on the boat. Only thing I remember about that particular trip was being hungry and that the captain was nice enough to give me a few spoonfuls of food. Very emotional site you’ve made!

Kathy Iorillo

Very emotional testimony of an experience of so many refugees. Realizing what war refugees go through to gain freedom is a humbling and important lesson. To many, America continues to be that haven for a better life. Risking no less than life itself, at the cost of family, children, homeland, and trauma of all sorts, these people provide us all with riveting stories of courage. Thank you for sharing.