Manning a 50 caliber machine gun on a rapidly moving boat in the rivers during Vietnam provided for many adrenaline rushes. The mentally low points of 2 tours in Vietnam were many but the adrenaline rushes that came were spectacular and unlike anything I have ever been able to duplicate in the civilian world.
We were called the River Rats and it was our job to patrol the rivers and inland waterways. We were charged with boarding boats of the Vietnamese people to search for weapons and incendiaries. There were often times gunfight and sometimes we would have to call in for air support. We never knew when a battle would erupt.
We had to periodically approach, board, and then search other boats for guns and explosives. We knew that if a boat contained weapons that were being moved for the North Vietnamese that gun fire was almost a given.
Most of the time when we boarded a boat we would be on edge and cautious but everything was OK. On the times we boarded and found guns or other signs we would be extremely cautious as parts of their boat may have been booby trapped.
Most of the gun fights that occurred happened when we were pulling up to a boat. It was at this point they would fire upon us if they were going too. The adrenaline rush of pulling up and preparing to board a boat was extreme.
Cutting the Forest Down
My job was to man one of the 50 caliber machine guns that were mounted to the top of the boat. When we would get into comb at with the enemy while they were on land we would often times be shooting at not know exactly where the enemy was. The boat would be flying down the river and my machine gun would be literally cutting the trees and bushes down.
There is nothing like the adrenaline rush that I experienced in these situations. Many of my fellow River Rats came back to the civilian world and try to duplicate the adrenaline rushes by using drugs and or extreme sports. Nothing can duplicate the adrenaline experienced by us during combat when we would be "cutting the forest down".
On one occasion we were called into to retrieve some Navy Personnel who had been out in the Jungle for an extended period of time. When we arrived we realized they were one of the SEAL teams. When we charged with picking up a SEAL team we knew something had gone horribly wrong.
Everything seemed fine but we were all on high alert. Although nothing happened that day we still had one hell of an adrenaline rush as one of the SEALS briefed us on what had happened. We knew that they were privy to a lot of confidential and top secret information that they could not share so if this is what they were telling us we knew that the parts they left out had to be extremely juicy.
We often times dealt with the Navy SEALS but this were the first and only time I was involved with a SEAL team retrieval mission.
I felt a sudden surge of adrenaline when the plane took off that was taking me back Stateside. I knew I was going home. The extreme happiness I felt was negated by my life back home. I had become hooked on the adrenaline rushes of Vietnam and nothing back home could equal those adrenaline rushes.
I did not miss war and the horrific things I saw but I definitely missed the adrenaline rushes. I was fortunate as I did not become an alcoholic or drug user like many of my war buddies did. I am now retired and spend my time riding motorcycles, fishing, hunting, and camping but I still miss the adrenaline highs I experienced in Vietnam. There is nothing that can compare to those moments when adrenaline is pumping through your body faster than seemingly possible.
Note: I never served in Vietnam. Heck, I was even alive during Vietnam. This article was written for a person I know and they decided they no longer needed to pursue their web project so I am posting it here instead of letting it sit on my computer.