Central Texas Heroes: James Patin

James Patin, Navy veteran

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Some people may not realize the role the Navy played in Vietnam.

But one local Navy veteran wants people to understand.

James Patin was there and experienced it all first hand.

"We didn't worry about the big rivers and all that. We went deep in the jungle," Patin told us.

Patin got to Vietnam in August 1968.

He was an automatic weapons specialist on a river assault boat.

"We would be assigned a general area to operate in with the rules of engagement of seek and destroy," he said.

Patin explained the boat models came with different artillery, "we had Tango Boats, Alpha Boats, Charlie Boats, Monitors which actually had a tank turret on the bow, and Zippo Boats which had flame throwers on each side of the bow."

Collectively the crews became known as the River Rats.

They moved into unknown territory sometimes ending up in shallow, narrow rivers surrounded by the enemy.

"When we went into the U Minh Forest it took us two trips in to secure that place and the amount of arms, ammunition and Viet Cong that were in there were like ants in an anthill," Pain said.

And enemy fighters worked hard to push them out.

He ended up injured himself by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade tearing through his boat.

And many boats were sunk from beneath by mines.

2,559 members of the Navy were lost.

"Every branch of the service that went over there lost a lot of people, a lot of young men. Anyone that has been in combat doesn't come back the same," he said.

Patin is still affected by what he saw.

He said, "I wake up at night in cold sweats, have nightmares about every night, and you can talk to anybody that has been there and they've got the same thing."

Patin received help to deal with it from Veterans Affairs and he works now with other veterans to make sure they get the help and care they need.

He served proudly and his love for his country decades after he joined the military is as powerful as ever.

"I feel as strongly about it now as before I left," Patin told us.