Neenah, Wis. (WFRV) – From high school, straight into the navy; Neenah’s Jim Marohn always had a desire to take to the seas.
It started with Gunnery school in 1965 at Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois.
“A guy from the department of the navy showed up at our gunnery school and said we have this new thing in Vietnam called a Swift Boat,” said Marohn.
From there he was hooked, volunteering to try out the new technology as a gunner overseas. Marohn along with his crew were based at Cat Lo Naval Base in Vietnam, a part of Coastal Division 13 and Coastal Squadron One.
“It was a hell of a way to be nineteen,” recalled Marohn. “One of the things about being on a Swift Boat is it’s either total boredom or sheer adrenaline, there’s no middle ground in between,” he said.
Much of that adrenaline came with seeing the loss of his comrades.
“It was a lot harder (to deal with the loss) afterwards, but at the time that was just what we did,” said Marohn.
The water has always been a part of Marohn’s life, it is now where he lives in Neenah, Wisconsin. He admits he saw some tough days while in Vietnam, but the real struggle began when he returned home.
“That’s probably the biggest journey of my life,” Marohn said. “When I came back, I didn’t talk about Vietnam to anyone because it wasn’t something that anyone expected us to be proud of even though we were,” he said.
It was a moment at a parade up north for the return of a local veteran, more than 50 years after Marohn left Vietnam, that told him it was time to find help.
“All of the sudden, this convertible came by and on it, there was this young man in camo sitting there waving to the group,” Marohn remembered. “I’m sure it was just that, the way he was being treated which was fantastic, compared to the way we were,” he said. “That’s the one that said, ‘You know, maybe you need to talk to someone.”
So, that’s what Marohn did. He sought help from VA Chapter 351 in Appleton. Now more than six years later, Marohn spends his time encouraging other veterans to talk about their struggles, like he decided to do that day at the parade.
“I will stand for any flag that’s in front of me, and go to any parade,” Marohn said. “Since then, I’ve come to accept the fact that that was a part of my life that was pretty great and I’m very proud,” he said.