Denny Hull of Charles City was a member of the "Sea Tigers" — the Army's 458th Transportation Company (Patrol Boat, River) — during the Vietnam War.
The duties of Hull and other members of his unit included escorts, ammo barges, security, night patrols, ambushes and recovery of dead bodies.
The worst part was "picking up bodies out of the river," said Hull, 65.
When they were on the river, "We were just sitting ducks," he said.
The boats had a fiberglass hull so "bullets would pass right through it," he said.
Once while Hull and the rest of his crew were "goofing off" and doing some water skiing, the front of their boat was blown off, he said.
He wasn't injured then, but he was wounded in hand-to-hand combat while capturing a Viet Cong prisoner.
"He wanted to take my arm off," Hull said.
Another time he captured 13 Viet Cong prisoners, earning a Bronze Star.
"The Viet Cong actually had a bounty on me," he said.
Hull, a 1969 graduate of Charles City High School, enlisted in the Army in March 1970 at age 19. He said he enlisted in the Army because of the lack of jobs in Charles City.
He started his Army training on tug boats and then volunteered for river patrol, knowing he would be sent straight to Vietnam.
Hull said he was inspired by President John F. Kennedy, who saved the surviving crew of the PT boat he commanded when it sank in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.
Hull landed in Vietnam on Veteran's Day 1970.
River patrol was done in small groups, "so we got pretty close," he said.
His unit left Vietnam in September 1971 but he stayed behind for a while to help train the members of the Vietnamese Navy who were taking over the river patrol boats.
When Hull first came back from Vietnam, "I was very traumatized," he said.
However, looking back, "I would still do it again," he said.
Hull got a job at the White Farm tractor plant in Charles City when he came home. After the plant closed he started working at Curries in Mason City.
Seven years after he left the Army, he joined the Iowa Army National Guard. He was a member of the 1133rd Transportation Company based in Mason City and went with them to serve in the Gulf War.
They arrived in the Persian Gulf on Veterans Day 1990 — exactly 20 years after Hull landed in Vietnam.
He said the Gulf War was a different experience than Vietnam.
"I was more cautious," he said.
Then 40, Hull was one of the oldest members of the unit and was able to act as a mentor to the others.
He is now retired from both Curries and the National Guard.
Hull and his wife, Linda, have three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He recently returned from a reunion of his Vietnam unit in Virginia Beach. Some of the boats they used, which had been restored and were operable again, were there.
"I'm proud of my service," Hull said. "I know it was the right thing."