(CBS) – It served in Vietnam for years, and now, veterans from that war are lovingly restoring a boat that patrolled the rivers there and often rescued U.S. service men.
CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield says the men of the Concerned Veterans from Vietnam are all someone you should know.
During the Vietnam War, PBRs – short for “patrol boat/river” — patrolled the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam as part of what was dubbed the “brown water navy.”
“I went on some dangerous missions on these boats,” Barry Wright says. “That’s one of the reasons why I want to restore it.”
There is only one PBR left because the North Vietnamese captured nearly all of them when they overran the south, he says.
Back home, the lone PBR was used for rescues and finally became the proud possession of the Concerned Veterans from Vietnam. Wright, the organization’s national commander, says the idea is to restore the boat to the way it was back in Vietnam.
For Johnny Grant, who was among the last of the U.S. soldiers to leave Vietnam, the boat brings back vivid memories. The PBR was used for reconnaissance, and saved the lives of U.S. service members, he says.
Veteran volunteers are busy removing the paint and the identification of the previous owner.
Weighing 7 tons and nearly 32 feet long, the boat is propelled by whirlpool water pump jets to navigate shallow water. It can reach nearly 35 mph.
When restoration is complete, the boat will be back in the water for something other than war.
“We’re going to use this boat to go on every river, every stream, everywhere in the United States to bring some awareness on the problems that veterans are having,” Wright says.