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Marian Days goers reflect on Fall of Saigon - KOAM TV 7

Marian Days goers reflect on Fall of Saigon

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CARTHAGE, MISSOURI -

It's 1975, and Saigon, South Vietnam is being captured by North Vietnam.  South Vietnamese are fleeing, and one of them is Gang Pham, who was 24-years-old at the time.

"Everybody went out to the boats, and we don't even know where we are going.  And we go out to the boat and go out into the ocean," says Pham.

Pham says he and others were at sea for about two days before being picked up by Americans.

We asked Pham if he was scared.

Pham says, "You don't have a choice, you know what I mean?"

"The people there (Vietnam) are very devout to be Catholic or Buddhist, they don't want to lose their identity or their value that they have in Vietnam," says Father Francis Van, a priest at Marian Days.

But Van says the North Vietnam communist take-over would have forced conformity, so that's why thousands of South Vietnamese left.  

Father Van expects close to 80,000 at this year's Marian Days, and says more than half of these people are South Vietnam refugees.  The 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon is a big part of this year's religious event in Carthage.

"Grace (the word is painted on a large background at Marian Days) that we came here to America," says Father Van.

Pham says he doesn't talk much about the Fall of Saigon with other refugees at Marian Days.

"Just let it go behind," says Pham.

But just like Father Van, Pham is extra grateful at this year's Marian Days.

"I come back to Vietnam to visit my family once in a while, but I still don't trust Vietnam at all," says Pham.

Many of the Vietnamese we talked with says there is still no freedom of religion in Vietnam.  One priest at Marian Days says the Vietnamese government wants to keep track of the number of priests.

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