Trong's father was certain his 9-year-old son was about to be enlisted. "My dad, at his desperation, he [sent] me out on a boat to escape Vietnam," Trong says. "[He thought], if he sent me away, I [would] have a better chance to survive."
Trong was cast out into the South China Sea on a dangerously crowded boat, terrified and alone. When they ran out of water, people began panicking and jumping off the boat to commit suicide. The real danger came when modern-day pirates attacked the boat looking for gold and silver. "I witnessed the women being raped. They just take the babies, [and threw them] overboard. It just [made] my heart break. My body just shut down," Trong says.
Days later he says the ship hit ground and began to sink. Trong says he swam to the nearest island and used a cave as shelter. Six months later, Trong was rescued by the Indonesian government and placed in a refugee camp. After two years in the camp, Trong finally found salvation when a Seattle family became his sponsor and moved him to the United States.