Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with Owen C. Mike

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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[English translation of Hoocąk preamble follows]

MIKE: My Ho-Chunk relatives, Ho-Chunk warriors, warriors from different tribes, and all the different people I greet you. These white people asked to speak with me and I told them I would. What I went through was not a good time, what I went through was difficult. Ho-Chunk soldiers went on this war path, and I went on it as well. The spirits with whatever sacred things they had, they watched over us, 00:01:00they blessed us. When Ho-Chunk warriors went through this, this is how the spirits blessed them, they watched over them. These white people have come and I'm going to tell them truthfully what I went through. What I went through was 00:02:00difficult. I'm going to carefully tell my Ho-Chunk relatives, and the Buffalo Clan members, and all my sibling relatives. I went to Vietnam, and I was made 00:03:00able to put some enemies down there. What I earned and was able to do, all of that is now in the war bundle in the center of the lodge. My Buffalo Clan relatives can use that for their Ho-Chunk way of life now. My Hoocąk relatives, Ho-Chunk warriors, warriors from other Nations, to all the different people, I greet you.

MIKE: I'm gonna translate it in English this is that. I told my friend here 00:04:00that's interviewing me that I would speak first in Ho Chunk. That's our way of greeting. First I greeted all my Ho Chunk people and all the warriors, Ho Chunk warriors. And all the other tribe warriors. And, to all the families, my brothers and sisters and their families. And all the Ho Chunk people, that I will do my best to explain what I went through in combat and--waxopįnį means "spirit." We believe and we know that my destiny as a Ho Chunk, that I was 00:05:00meant to be--for me to go to war. And the creator, plus, plus me and the war path that I have chosen, watch over me. And there are many other Ho Chunk warriors with their--the spirit's also blessed them and watched their, watched over them in their time in combat. And many of them never been in combat. Yet they are warriors. And today, I greet you, all Ho Chunk people. To all of my friends and my relatives. My brothers and sisters. And to all non-Indian people. I greet you also. Pįįragigi means "thank you." And wa'įnįginąp means, 00:06:00"Thank you for the respect that you, that you showed to me." Okay.

DERKS: Um, let's uh, first of all just say and spell your name.

MIKE: My name is--my first, I'm gonna say it in Ho Chunk. My Ho Chunk name, is Jąąpwakącąk. It means "sacred vision." Many years ago when I was a little child, in our religion way of life, our Ho Chunk way of life--only the Ho Chunk way of life. I'm not talking about other religion--that the creator blessed us. And my parents offered a pail--Indian corn and Indian tobacco to the spirits. To whatever spirits that they have chosen. Or the host have chosen. And 00:07:00they offered a pail to them and a spirit blessed me with that name. And my other name is "Haaga." It means third born son. And, a lot of um, my Ho Chunk people, they get a kick out of it because the Haagas are the, are the, are the messed up ones. Woowąk [naughty]. [Laughs] That's uh, we always tease one another in Haagas. And, my English name is Owen. First name is Owen, O-W-E-N, Cyrus C-Y-R-U-S, my middle name. And Mike M-I-K-E. And how we got Mike I don't know. 00:08:00But when I, what I heard from the past was that, when a white man came and to our land and destroyed--tried to destroy the Ho Chunk people, and--we had to sign papers and--during that time, they paid the Ho Chunk and a lot of 'em they, they didn't know how--know or spoke word of English, so they translated whatever easy words, English words that they could pronounce. I believe that's how we got Mike. Cause it was easy to pronounce. And, and I will try my best and do my best to, to continue on when I uh, when I will be hop-scotching here and there or whatever that uh--remember. And also, our Ho Chunk warriors, everything is 00:09:00centered around the Ho Chunk warriors. Our ceremonials, our religious ceremonies. Our feasts. Medicine, Medicine dance, Scalp dance. Our--heerušga. It means, "a warrior's let their hair down." In translation it means, pow wow. That's when we put on our best regalia's. Everything is centered around a warrior and our way of life. And, sometime I try to um, it's hard for me to translate. Some of these um, I try--do my best to translate. And the most important part of being a warrior, and a Ho Chunk warrior, is, when a--somebody 00:10:00dies and when we have a funeral or I would say our four-day wakes, that's the time--that is the most important time for a warrior to come to those. Today our Ho--many Ho Chunk warriors, they say they're warriors, though they don't come to these. This was its purpose, of being a warrior. And that's why you're blessed on a war path or the path that I have chosen. And years later, I finally understood what they were talking about. And that--and the time when those warriors--there, there are so few of us go to them. Cause many of them don't come to that cause it's a real hard, hard process. We have to stay up all night. 00:11:00It's tiresome. And a lot of them don't take their time or don't want to come. I told many of them, this is the time when--the most important part of being a warrior, Ho Chunk warrior, is when you come to the, a wake. Reason why it's just--it is the most important being a warrior is that when a warrior that killed his enemy, the deceased takes the path to going home. He or she will go to the first lodge, and speak to that person inside. And after--the spirits spoke to that person or that deceased person, that's when he or she continues 00:12:00on to return to going home. While he--while traveling on the, going home, white man calls it heaven. Us, Ho Chunk people, we call it going home. Along her journey or--the male or female deceased--will travel along her journey or along his journey. He meets two, he meets two warriors. They have no holes in their body. Then when she go--he or she approaches them, that's why we have our--Ho Chunk tobacco is the most sacred tobacco, because the spirits cannot refuse it. When it boils right down to it, Ho Chunk people, or all people, we are the 00:13:00weakest animals in this world. Compared with other animals that are strong. Yet we are strong. And powerful. I'm talking about the Ho Chunk people. Then she offers--he or she offers--the tobacco to the warriors. And they ask her or him, "What are you doing here?" My [???], my body--got sick, and I couldn't get up anymore. And that's the same way when he or she goes to the--first lodge. Then the warriors--those two warriors two warriors, became angels. They are my 00:14:00workers. These two enemies that I have killed, they are the ones that became an angel and they became my warriors, my workers, and they do what I ask 'em and their job is to wait. Then they take her to--take her or him--on his journey. Then they come to a Y. That's the most important part right there. And they will direct her or him to go through the correct--path--That person, that deceased person that goes, goes through three--four wigwams. That is all I can say. And, and it's hard, some--and I keep telling other Ho Chunk Warriors. I hear them 00:15:00say, "Oh I'm a, I'm a Ho Chunk Warrior. I'm a, I'm a wąąk wašoše." But they don't come to these wakes. The only time they ever act like they're wąąk wašoše is during the time, Memorial Day. Memorial Day to me is, that's the time when a warrior puts on his best regalia. A time to let your hair down--warriors let their hairs down. That's the time when--we socialize and be around Ho Chunk together. And during that time, there's many times that I uh, gave eagle feathers. I have given many in my lifetime. Only a warrior that kill, 00:16:00touch--or captured an enemy--in my case it would be Vietnamese. North Vietnamese soldiers. I have ca--I have captured, killed. My kills is unknown. How many that I killed is unknown. And I captured one. And I touched many enemies when on my tour in Vietnam. And the warrior's--and the people want an eagle feather. They ask a warrior that killed an enemy. They are the only ones who are authorized to give eagle feathers. This is only in our Ho Chunk way of life. And I'm not speaking for other tribes cause they're--each tribe has their own special ways. And at that time. I feel honored. Then a warrior's--during the son, parents of a 00:17:00warrior--like my parents--they're gone now. They went home. They compo--my ma and dad, they composed the warrior song for me. Ho Chunk warrior song. And the worked with uh, Lyle Greendeer and with the green--uh, the Winnebago Sons, and they composed the warrior song for me. And there is many songs--written about warriors from way back, centuries ago to this day. Uh, and we still keep our tradition going. And also, and our way of life means--our feast, medicine dance, scalp dance, these--our, we believe our--uh, this is heard in the lodges. It's a 00:18:00spirit. Our spirit. We call 'em--our creator, came and came--to the Ho Chunk people in animal form. And we know that you would never see 'em, until the day you get--on your way jour--on your journey home. And we have many spirits. He is not the only spirit. We have many spirits. So many spirits. And we worship each one of them. This is our way of life. And today, the non-Indian people, the white people, try to change our way of thinking. Our way of life. It is not so. 00:19:00From what I hear in our lodge there's--four directions. Four seasons. Four weathers. Four nationalities in the world. Our creator went to each one of these nationalities through, throughout the world to worship him the way he wants to be. Today, out of my respect to other people's religions, I'm not here to criticize or--but it's, it bothers me when they come to my home--Christians or Catholics--come over, try to convert us. Cause their, their religion's better than ours. It is not so. It is their way of life. It's their, their choice of 00:20:00religion. And also, is that I show my respect to them. Cause that's their religion. One time I going through a valley, valley in um, Asi--or no, not Asia. I meant in Vietnam. I walked point and we came to a Buddhist temple-type area and way deep in the jungle. First thing I did, I told, I told my team leaders, my-my squad, "Whatever you do, I'm gonna go in there and check it out. I'm gonna go through. I don't want you guys to touch nothing cause this is their beliefs, this is their religion, this is how the creator told them to worship him. So we went through it that way. We not out here to change their way of life. The way they were taught. And today, not only that--not only did we religion, but also, 00:21:00there's an assembly men from Abbottsford, Wisconsin. Criticized, ridiculed the Ho Chunk Nation by saying our language is dead. And, what he's really saying is, he doesn't like Native American people, let alone Ho Chunk. By saying that. And now, I'm trying to correct this. In his position, he shouldn't be up there, in the state of Wisconsin, governor, cause uh, he has no way of, no rights to say 00:22:00things like that to us. And, the foreigners came and stepped, stepped on our shores in Green Bay. The president at that time--this is many years ago. The president at that time said to the, the generals, "Destroy all Native Americans. They don't count. Our religions counts. We want our freedom." And by, by doing so, we would destroy the--Native Americans throughout the United States let alone Wisconsin. And, during these times, they--they destroyed Ho Chunks. Pushed 'em all the way to La Crosse. The soldiers, the generals. They pushed the Ho 00:23:00Chunk and the Ho ran the La Crosse river, just to destroy the Ho Chunk people and other--Native Americans that lives in Wisconsin. And I hope--that many of you non-Indian people. What I'm trying to say is, I'm trying to pass a message to all of you that we are people too. We care for one another. We even care for yous. We are good people. We are gentle people. [????] a war, we are warriors and we kill, all the enemies that comes to our shore, or try to destroy America. And I hope--that I got a--passed this message to all of Wisconsin, 00:24:00Wisconsinites, to understand what I'm trying to say. I accepted this opportunity for this interview so I can pass this message. And to this day on, no president or any president before that, ever tried to apologize to that--all Native Americans and was, in United States, let alone in Wisconsin. I have not once heard any of them say, "You Native Americans, we are sorry that we came and violated you and destroyed yous." And today they always come up with Jewish, how they destroyed 'em. European people, the foreign people, not one of them ever 00:25:00done that. Then going into a, talking about the wars--it's a white man's history. It's their history, not Native American History. They try to tell us that it's--that the history started from Civil War. That's all, that's all far it goes. Cause you know why? Cause United States, non-Indian people, the white people, are embarrassed what they had done to the Native American. And today, we have no speakers or no one speaks for us in Wisconsin. Thru the eyes of them people there, senators, congressmen. Our votes don't count. We are just people along with the people. And it hurts me when I, when I think about that. It, 00:26:00cause it, it disgusts me. It's--makes me feel ashamed of them. And today, I am proud of President Obama. I voted for him. I didn't look at his nationality. I looked at him as a person. He's the only one that I took interest cause he's taking his time to look at all nationalities, different nationalities that live here in the state of Wisconsin. And he's trying his best to help Native Americans. Then again, on a humor part, the brighter side is that, us Ho Chunks, 00:27:00we have three casinos and I'd like to say this to all the youth, "Thank you for your donation cause it puts money in our pocket. Thank you. Pįįragigi." [laughs]. Ok.

DERKS: Um, do I remember that before you were a marine, were you in the Army?

MIKE: Yes.

DERKS: When you first joined the Army, did you know about being a warrior?

MIKE: No cause uh--I learned this when I uh, when I came back from Vietnam. Is that uh--see we um, my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters--see I'm the only one that went into the service. And um, nobody came over and told us--well me or my parents, anything. And today, many of my uh, warriors that went to Iraq 00:28:00came back or they come to my place. And I sit down and I explain to them what is expected from them. And, I joined uh, the United States Army in 1961. Got discharged. I went--discharged in 1963. And um, and went to--

[Break in recording]

MIKE: Okay going back um, joined the Army in 1961. My highest grade was 7th grade. And, the only way I can get in--oh I tried to enlist but uh, the enlisted part, they wouldn't accept me cause I had to have a diploma at that time, so. To make a long story short, I uh, volunteered for draft and that's how I got into the military. That's how I got in the Army. Went to uh, Fort Leonard Wood. Took 00:29:00my basic. And from there I came home. During that time they uh, asked for um, anybody that wants to volunteer for paratrooper school or a jump school. I volunteered and I passed the test. After I uh, graduated from basic training, I went--came home. Went from there to Fort Leonard Wood. And my MOS was uh, intelligence. And uh, when I got there I didn't know nothin' about math. I didn't know anything about trigonometry or all those--so anyway uh, they--I couldn't make it so they put me in uh, artillery. Cause uh, the reason why they put me intelligence cause uh, uh--it's uh--they call it Fire Direction Center. F.D.C. I think it was. Yeah. Now I didn't mind it cause uh, I was enjoying 00:30:00myself cause I was just a kid. Nineteen years old--just turned nineteen. Feel good. I'm happy that I'm in military, you know, let alone, everything, you know. Then from, when I graduated Artillery School. And from there I went--a lot us uh, a lot of other soldier boys besides me went to uh, Fort-Fort Benning, Georgia. There I took my uh Jump School and I passed that. Then my orders came. I was--orders said I was 101st Airborne Division. Fort Campbell, Kentucky. So I was there with uh, 101st during 1963. I got separated. It wasn't all--they don't call it uh, discharge. Its separation. For the next four years I was in uh, Active Reserve, and I worked in Milwaukee. I worked at the carnival. The 00:31:00season--1967, I got honorable discharge from the Army. And I came home, and I told my ma that I want to go back in the service. Only uh, by that time I had my GED. And my military record was outstanding. And I was gonna join--I was gonna--I had an appointment with a--an Army recruiter but then he wasn't there. And uh, I joined in uh, Wisconsin Rapids that time. That's where I grew up. In Wisconsin Rapids. And uh, there--I told that uh Army recruiter that, that I want to go into Special Forces training. So, he didn't make---I don't know what happened anyway. He never showed up for his appointment and any way in the meantime.


DERKS: Just a second. You're a popular guy. [laughing]

[Break in recording]

DERKS: You're going to go back in.

MIKE: Oh yeah.

DERKS: And you couldn't--you decided you wanted to do Special Forces.

MIKE: Anyway, Army recruiter didn't show up. In the meantime, this is how I got in. The humor part is that the Marine Corps sergeant come over, "Hey Chief, who are you waiting for?" I told him that I wanted, wanted to reenlist. He gave me some brochures. Came back and gave me some coffee. And came back later and gave me some donuts. "So, you ever thought about uh, joining the Marine Corps?" "No, in fact, I never thought about it. Well if I join the Marine Corps, when would I go?" "Would you believe Wednesday?" "Ok where are the papers? I will sign." Put my name on it and that's how I got in. And uh, there's like uh, the Marine Corps 00:33:00boot camp was very demanding. Um, I have prior service so I knew what to expect of me. I graduated from boot camp, came home on leave. Came back and my orders came and I says, "A radio operator." And I chose not to uh--and I didn't want, want to be a radio operator. It isn't that I wanted to uh, be a radio operator. My mind and our Ho Chunk way of thinking is that it's a must that we go into combat. It's just our way of life. So they changed my uh, MOS. I had to wait a little bit so they put me in an MP. I was an MP for--finally my orders came. 00:34:00Jungle Guerilla Warfare Training. That's based on uh--training what is expect--what I will be expecting in Vietnam. And uh--

DERKS: When was that by the way? What year was that?

MIKE: Oh I joined uh, Marine Corps uh, November of 1967. And by the--all my orders and all my training I waited, this is around October. Somewhere around October. Finally um, it takes a while to get um, your orders changed. Anyway uh, went through the Jungle Guerilla Warfare Training. And sometime, somewhere between the end of October going into November, I left uh--got done with 00:35:00training and from there went to El Toro Air Wing. And we flew from there to Hawaii. Then we flew into Okinawa. What--we were there for about a week. There they uh, gave us shots and made sure our records, military records and addresses are all correct. We spent a--a week there. Finally, finally they--we left Okinawa. I made Okinawa to Da Nang. And we flew by American Airlines and we landed in--I don't know how long we uh, flew. It's gotta be about four to five to eight hours. Anyway, I slept and we finally--landed. Then they put us in a--convoy. Went over to Dong Ha. I mean we went to--no, I'm sorry. Uh--uh, my 00:36:00orders came and said 3-9. 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. And we were gonna be--I'm gonna be located up in northern I Corps around, below the headquarters, was in Quang Tri City, below the DMZ. Then from Da Nang we flew--some of us flew--and we landed in Dong Ha. Then they picked us up by conv--they just, they picked us up, took us to the headquarters uh, where were gonna be located. And we had a formation there. Uh, they told me I'm gonna be in communication, again. And uh, I don't mind communication. Don't get me wrong. But I'm a Ho Chunk and I came, I came, well I went to Vietnam to fight a war. So I told my sergeant that. And uh, he sent me to the--a couple days later 00:37:00I got--I was uh, had permission to talk to the, my CO, my commanding officer. And I told him "Sir, that I'm American Indian. I came here to fight a war. I'd like to be with a grunt company. Infantry Company or Rifle Company." All the--it's all the, what we're saying is it's the infantry part of the, of the Marine Corps. So he wrote out the orders and--and I was transferred to Indian Company. And, I got resupplied again. I left uh--Vandegrift Combat Base and landed--we called a supply run or meal run or uh, they called it uh--where you 00:38:00get your meal, food, C-rations, uh, resupply, whatever, that the infantry part needs to be. Needs. And then we uh--I landed in the jungles. That was the first time I ever know what I jungle was. There I was introduced to Captain Merla [sp??], who was my commanding officer, who was a Samoan from Hawaii. And, Sergeant Hedgers was my platoon sergeant. Corporal Duncan was my squad leader. David Solomon was uh, team leader. And Staff Sergeant Stone. These are the only marines that I associated during my tour with in Vietnam. At the beginning my uh, very first time I, I uh--it was on about Christmas time in that area where 00:39:00we uh, when I was initiated. My very first firefight. For me it might be of--for me it was awesome. I'm just like any other marine or any of the other soldiers that never been in a combat. All I heard was, "Pop pop," sound of when a machine gun opens up. And, they hit us up front. Then they also hit us to the left. And, the jungle's so thick that all we do is, uh, we call the fire power and try to have them uh, superior. Superior fire power against the enemy. Sometimes the enemy's got sup--to have the superior fire power. And we climbed um--my squad, 00:40:00we climbed--my platoon and squad--we climbed uh, the hill. Little hill off to my left. There they killed uh, four marines and I don't know how many wounded. And that's what, that's how I uh, got initiated to my very first firefight. And uh--for me [long pause]--like I was saying before about destiny, from the day I was born, my destiny was to go to war. I showed no fear, I had no fear. It was 00:41:00like um--that I was--I'd been there. And I reacted the same as other marines and veterans that were really there. And finally the squad and my platoon accepted me. Cause a lot of the--newbies, we called a new person. A lot of em, when they get into their very first firefight, they go, they panic. Or they freeze. When they do that it's uh--they are no good to us. There we uh--nationality didn't make no difference. We're marines. We are, we are like a team. We work together. And they found out that I was gonna be good they accepted me. And I felt good. And, during my time, I have killed many. The count is unknown. And there is some 00:42:00that I actually seen that I--killed. After [??] or after 1969, we went to A Shau Valley. We took Tiger Mountain. With my um, 9th Marine Regiment, in fact our whole division was there, to stop uh, NVA coming across Vietnam. After we uh, we, we--it was monsoon season. This was on--January of 1969 when we went to A Shau Valley. Marines were there first. And later the Army went in there after us. That's how they made that movie called "Hamburger Hill." That movie I relate 00:43:00to it because it was identical. Except for the part when the--our own--we called it friendly fire--didn't happen to us. We'd go on patrols. And during that time uh, and later--uh, one patrol uh--David Solomon was teaching me to be a--or to walk point because he had faith in me and knew I was a--somehow knew that I was a natural. I was. It was a--like I belonged there. It was just--a natural thing. In my job and my position. As a point man, you gotta kill the--and my CO asked 00:44:00me to, if I want that job and I said, "Yes, sir." That's uh, for the rest of my tour, I was a point man. I never got wounded. Uh, but I had a trip wire--blow up in my face and also some were during a firefight where somebody threw a hand grenade cause it's so thick that, that thing blew uh--uh, came back. Blew up among us. I had--I almost lost my right eye because the shrapnel went into it. This is what you call uh friendly fire. In our Ho Chunk way, in warrior society we call it, "Where I left my blood." And uh, after I took uh, his position. And my whole responsibility is--and I know I have saved many marines' life cause I 00:45:00knew what I was doing. Walking point ain't the easiest job. A lot of 'em don't want it cause the life expectancy to you is very short. My job, I lasted over thirteen months there. But it's many times that we all take turns. Each platoon takes turns. But generally, when we know the enemies are in the area, they put me up front, cause they have faith in me and they know I was good. After '69--

DERKS: Before we go on, tell me about walking point. What-what-what made you good?

MIKE: Um, I wanted that job. And also David Solomon knew I was gonna be good at it.

DERKS: But what do you do when you walk point?

MIKE: I uh--

DERKS: What do you look for?

MIKE: When I uh, I go uh--us Ho Chunk people, our warriors, uh--. I go by my 00:46:00feelings. And before I go further, what I said was I had no fear. I had no fear of the enemy or that--or death. And the white people--not any people--don't know that. But what--there's many things that we know--about life. That's what I said. They always tried to change our way of thinking. See we call it on a--we don't call battle grounds. We call it a playground. "Playground" means, not a battlefield, it's a playground. Cause my spirit, that took over, and my spirit 00:47:00was playing with the enemy's spirits, like children's. In the spirit world. When that uh--when that, when they, when the spirit takes over, that's why--I had no fear. No fear whatsoever. Or pain. Even the [actual??], I had no pain. And it's hard to explain to uh, other unless they are a Ho Chunk, and our--believe in our way of life. Cause going to war is a blessing. And being a warrior is a blessing. But the most sacred is to die on a battle ground. And there, your name 00:48:00lives forever. And what I looked for as a--walking point. I call it--I walked every step, I could smell. I'm like a cat. A tiger in the mountain. I was, cunning, I was, deadly. I became a killer. I went out to kill the enemy. I went look for that. Cause I went lookin' for him. Cause he's there trying to destroy me and my other marines. And our job, and what we did, we did the same thing. So don't misunderstand when I said uh, I enjoyed killing. It's my expressive way of saying, I had a job to do. I was well trained and I believe in myself and I 00:49:00believe my Ho Chunk way of the warriors society way of life. And I believe that uh--[??] goin' into combat--this is most--important part of my life cause that's the first time in my lifetime that people respected me. Cause uh--white people and non-Indian people never did like Native American. I had a tough time going to school. That's why the highest grade I went is 7th grade. It took care of [them??], they pay no attention to us. And what I look for and what my feeling is as point man, I believe is looking for respect. In the Marine Corps, I got 00:50:00that respect that I always wanted. I'm a marine. I'm equal. Is that what you mean? Um--I've been in many, many firefights. I'm the first man to make contact with the enemy. One operation, a sergeant got hit to my left. They hit us up front and they hit us on both sides. And he got hit and he was screaming for help. I mean he was screaming. He got hit. He got hit right here, his bone was sticking out, and he got hit right here [using hand to gesture]. With no fear, I got up and ran. With bullets flying. He later--he was out-out, he was screaming 00:51:00off to my left. Nobody other--no other marines didn't want to get up, but I did. I got up. We were in the fire, bullets flying. No fear. Patched him up. Put a tourniquet on him. He was still screaming. And uh, during the firefight I stayed and protected him. After a while he calmed down and he just--cause he knew I was there. Later a corpsman came and I went--when we get into a firefight, it's a mass confusion. All we know is the bullets coming this way. And uh, when you hear a zing, the bullet already went through you. And--to this day, I dunno what his name was. But to me he was a--my brother. My marine. So somewhere in the 00:52:00United States he's in peace with himself. Probably remember that crazy [Indian??] when he came over here [laughs]. Um, I'm gonna try to make a short um, hopscotch. We came back from one operation and generally when we come back to uh, as a Inf--Marine Corps Infantry--when we come back to Vandegrift Base, we're just there to get resupply. We'll stay two-three days. Bingo, we're back out in the jungles again. That's just the way the 3rd Marine operated. And we were home. We came back. Got a resupply and mail call. And uh, that's the fun time to us to. Cause there we had beer. And uh, I enjoyed drinking my beer. You know, along with everybody else. And that's when we'd get hot food. Uh, it's 00:53:00just kind of comfortable there cause then when you get to Vandegrift, or Vandegrift Combat Base or any other city within that area, when you're there, in the rear, there's--it looks like there's no war going on. It's just peaceful. I mean, you know, everybody's getting along together and everything. Uh--I don't like to go in the rear, myself. It was racial. Blacks against whites. And they're throwing frags at each other. Shooting each other. They left me alone cause I chose to stay the hell away from them. You know I--we just stayed within our, within our--like within my platoon, you know. We had blacks in there too but we just stay together, you know? And uh, we felt safer that way. And the 00:54:00people are doing that and they--are the people that work in the rear. Cause they had a--there's a difference--like I was saying, there's--when Marine Corps Infantry, we have a different way of thinking when you're out there. But in the rear it's looked like uh, they could care less. I often wondered why the generals and the colonels, they didn't do anything about that. They should've. You know, I-I cannot speak for the generals, but uh, years later it did bother me when I thought about why, why did the generals and colonels done something about that? They should've took them out and sent them, sent them back to stateside or somethin'. Or get them out of the Marine Corps. Cause we don't need that. Marine Corps don't need that, racial thing. I'm just uh, I just want to say this. I apologize to the United States Marine Corps, but it's real at that time. And it's still real. And today the Marine Corps changed their policy. 00:55:00They're more stricter to be a marine, you know. Cause we don't need that racial thing. And umm--there was a Army unit in uh, Laos. And we got back uh--we probably stayed about two three days. And I--having to look down there and uh, I seen all the captains, all the officers going up to the colonel's hooch. The tent where he's staying at. A while later--maybe an hour, two hours later they said, "Pack up. We're leaving." So we go to down to the area where the helicopters land and we all, we all uh--stayed uh, stayed waiting for the helicopter. And during one operation um, the only Ho Chunk I met was Dallas Whitewing. He was with the 1st Force Recon. I was really fortunate to uh--to 00:56:00meet, meet him. It was like two little kids jumping up and down. To a young man me--it was so, I was happy to see him. He was glad to see me too, you know. And uh, he asked me where I'm going. I said, "I don't know where we're flying out too, you know?" So at that time they were going up and uh--on the other side of the DMZ doing something. What they're supposed to do, you know? And we're careful. Even with myself I was careful, not to ask him. And he was careful not to ask me where-what operation or, you know, it just. Some of these--in my outfit--some of these operations were secret. Areas when I was supposed to be. Anyway uh, we flew into uh, Khe Sanh. When they had 1968 they had uh--that big heavy firefight. With the NVAs crossing uh--Vietnam from Laos. Then we flew from 00:57:00there. I always estimated. At the time we don't look at times. I uh, I just concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing. My mind is focused on myself. My squad leaders. My uh, fire team leaders. And uh, I was walking point. I'm responsible for my platoon and my company. And being a, a--doing, doing--that's why I became cunning, you know? I knew my job. And I was good. I became a killer. And I was, I was a killer. I um, like I said before, that I--I was uh, I moved and I walked like a cat. My ears are--wide open. My eyes are--perfect. I mean I can see, I can smell. And I know when uh, when the enemy's in front of me 00:58:00cause my body, uh, my body lets me know like somebody tapping me, kind of like, going like this. So I stopped and uh, my uh fire team leader asked me why and I told him so I--to bring up the machine guns and uh, they stay away tonight. I go up. I had, I take my backpack. I go ahead and I check the area. Generally there's one or two or they were there, you know? They left, you know? And uh, we believe that uh, reason why they left--cause they're they were fearful of me. They were scared of me. Even this is hard for me to--even this is hard for non-Indian people to uh, white people or other nationalities to understand. I put fear in 'em. And I know that. Check the area. Came back. "It's clear." So 00:59:00we'd move on. Um, one humor part was uh--we--I, I've done some real dumb things. I mean this is--stupid. I mean it's a wonder I'm still alive, you know. Came up, uh, got up in the mountains, I was uh--every time I get up, climb in the muck cause man it's hot. 120, 110, 130 degrees and I'm just sweating. Just pouring and I-I, "Oh will I be glad when I get on top of the, on top of that mountain. Cause I'm thinking about it back home, you know? When you get up on top of the hill cause it's all clear and you get that cool breeze. Well, dumb Ho Chunk, dumb Ho Chunk, he didn't think that way. I forgot that we were in the jungle to fighting a war. When I get up on top of the mountain, man these trees are humongous. They was about three four stories high. Still sweating. And I think 01:00:00to myself I kinda giggled, laugh to myself, "Well what a dumb way of thinking," it's-- [laughs]. And umm--I got a, we got into a clearing there in uh, in Laos. And I was standing--I stood up. Why I--Why I did that I dunno. Anyway I was checking out the area cause I got--sometimes I use the binoculars cause it gets real close. I was looking around like that. And all of a sudden I could hear it go, "Whoomp. Zhoomp. Zhoomp." You know, it was all around me. You know and I say, "What the shit is going on here?" It's like. Finally somebody hollered, "Hey Chief, get your ass down. They're shooting at you." I went like this, "Oh yeah." I kinda, kinda, kinda--I felt real, kinda, I don't know how to explain it. Kinda--


[Break in recording]

MIKE: I say to myself, "You dumb Indian." What I'm doing, what I'm actually saying is I done some real foolish things. Like standing out right out in the open with snipers shooting at me. And I was standing there kind of wondering why--why I keep hearing it. Sometimes I forget that I'm in war you know. That's when they hollered, "Get yer ass down! They're shooting at you!" And I go, "O-O-Oh yeah, oh shit." It feels embarrassing now. What I don't want is embarrassing. I'm embarrassing myself, nobody else knows. That's a lot of humors to it. And uh, after we landed to where the Army was, and uh there, I guess you can call it their secret base. Down at the Army, they were from Colorado, and I 01:02:00know there were Special Forces in there too. Kinda like a secret base where they come and go. And I noticed a lot of Air Force have secret bases in Laos and Cambodia. Anyway, early uh, my whole watch, we call it guard duty, my turn was around 3 o'clock in the morning. And I was standing there and I was making some hot coffee. I put it in there and drank it. 'Cause I blew, you don't see it but yet we use c-ration. When you use c-ration I just uh, it's so bright you can see it. You know, it's like a flashlight you know. But I blew um, it just don't show. Anyway, I was heatin' up coffee and I was drinking coffee. Finally the sun was coming up to the east. Now all suddenly, blue tracer blew up and exploded on top, above us. That time I was uh, my buddy was uh, he was sleeping, woke up, 01:03:00and I woke him up too. "So what the hell was that?" "I don't know." I said, "I don't know." Just then the enemy attacked us. Uh, they were trying to overrun our position and one sergeant, they didn't hit us up front because it was a little steep to hit us to the left and to the right of us. The army and marines were kinda, they were together on the other side. And they tried to overrun our position. They were screaming for help. I was a point man. I used to carry over 500 rounds of magazines. And they, as a point man they also tried to keep me light as possible. I don't have to carry machine gun ammo or mortar rounds that you know, that we all carry. I was so good that they, you know they--I know how 01:04:00to operate radio. I know everything that needs to be known up front there and my job. And when I carry, what I carry about, two bandoliers on top of me, plus my k-bar. I carried a .45, my M-16, umm, and then whatever ammo I carried. I um, I was supporting in inside the M-16 pouch 4 magazines that fit there. I carried that, I'm still heavy, I've carried a lot of personal gear for myself, for my own safety. And plus um, then on top of my backpack, if we get hit I drop my backpack. Right away first thing I do is I grab all the ammo on top of my, that's how I carried it. And, there in my position I killed eight. And when uh, 01:05:00we uh, they left us. They went back in the jungles. I don't know how many crossed. You know 'cause I was, that was none of my concern because it was the [SDUs??]. Our job was just infantry. Our jobs--protect uh, the area we were assigned to so they don't do. And uh, so we uh, we chased them. And along my, the path there was a dead enemy there. As a Ho Chunk. We uh, I touched his head, his body, his uniform, because uh, anything, like I said before, anything we 01:06:00touched that counted as counted coup. Its like killing the enemy you know. And everybody else was shootin'. In my area we went in the outside after it was over, went on the other side I, I myself counted. You know, eight. Then um, going back to A Shau Valley when I, I walked point and we came down a mountain. This is on 1969, January, February, January, February umm, middle part of February towards the end and to March. I don't know exact date 'cause I wasn't there till the, um, to know all the dates. I--We just been there and I know.


DERKS: Was it just another day?

MIKE: What?

DERKS: It just another day? You didn't know the day and it was just another day.

MIKE: No. Yeah, you would read that in my letter. You know just, sometimes I have to ask what day it was or what month it was. But I know the months on my, the days or the number, or what the date of the number of the--across a creek, there was a little mountain up there. I climbed that and I found a NVA trail that was just recently maded. They were moving across you know, across. They know we're coming you know. They're not dumb. They're warriors too. And I have my respect to them. I have my respect 'cause they're soldiers too. And we're on even terms. Others don't think that way, but I do. 'Cause I will tell you later about this situation. Then out of nowhere an enemy NVA soldier stood up, opened 01:08:00up his AK-47. He missed at close range. And I put the whole clip in him, killed him there. Okay going back to A Shau Valley. I'm not, I mean um, operation in Laos. After we followed them um, we came back again. One of my platoon captured an enemy. They were calling to me, "Hey Mike. Mike, come here. We captured one." Could've called the sergeant, but why they all call me, I don't know. Lotta, lot of strange things happened out there. You know that's uh, maybe they had confident in me, whatever their thoughts were. So I went over there, said, one 01:09:00of them said, "Hey chief, what should we do? Should we kill him?" I looked at him and I, the enemy and I, he was laid, tied up. The enemy and I, we looked at each other. Got my weapon, I always carry it like this. I, kinda looked at him like this you know, 'cause he was laying on the ground like that. In his eyes he was begging for mercy. I didn't feel no pity or anything. I just looked at him and I said, "No." I thought, "I'm not god. Were not god. Were not creators." And, now I said we put to him, we put a AK-47 next to him. If he grabs for it then we're on equal terms. I have the right to kill him. Or he has the right to kill me. That's why a lotta, lotta marines and other soldiers that been there in 01:10:00Vietnam um, they don't like them. A lot of them don't have respect to them. But our Ho Chunk way as a warrior, a warrior's life, we show our utmost respect to the enemy 'cause we look at them as a "wąąk wašoše." It means "a brave soldier" that's the translation. And I'm a " wąąk wašoše." I'm a brave soldier. So, we are equal terms. He respects me and I respect him, or the soldier, or the enemy. After we came back Laos, went on another operation. Oh, 01:11:00at the time when my fellow marine, he kinda got a British accent, I don't know where he's from. And I was making a coff--coffee when we had that big firefight when they were trying to get over our position. During the firefight, he brought a little coffee cup to me. And I thought, you know things are so dumb, I shouldn't say dumb, things are so strange that you know, it's part of life. That's the way our, our way of life there you know as a marine soldier, as a marine warrior. Uh, come over and slid next to me holding on to that coffee pot, 01:12:00lot a coffee can. He said, "I say mate, I see you didn't have your cup of coffee so I decided to bring it over for ya." And I looked at him. Oh man, we just burst out laughing. Right in the middle of a firefight, we were laughing. [Laughs.] Then um, they a--they had enemy movement below the DMZ river. Again I walked point. When I was walking point all of a sudden all hell broke loose. I'm not talking about firefight. All kinds of noise. I hit the ground, but my hair stood up. You know there's just no fear, it's just a reaction in your body. You 01:13:00know it's, to us it's normal at a abnormal situation. Things we do. I hit the ground, my hair stood up. Pigs running here and there. Oh--Oh boy I got mad. Why you son of a bitches. You guys scared the shit outta me. The fuck's matter with you man. I hit a family of pigs. Then somebody uh, they come over all laughing you know. Somebody, "Naw naw naw. Leave 'em alone," I says. They're not part of the war. Anyway uh, finally um, towards um, my tour's almost up at over thirteen months. I counted how many months I've been there. Its around fourteen months. 01:14:00And we were pulling out marines and um, my 3rd Marine Division, my 3/9, the 9th Marines, we were the last to leave of the 3rd Marines 'cause they were taking each unit and ours was the last. And um, we flew from Da Nang into Okinawa. There, when I got into Okinawa I didn't know, yet I know that I'm gonna have problems. My body was telling me or my mind was telling me. But I didn't know what the problem was. Years later they call it PTSD, or war problem. I always 01:15:00call it war problem. 'Specially the ones that have been in a heavy firefight. Its uh, it's like you're carrying a burden on your shoulder. I brought my war home with me. I brought my war home with me. And I became an alcoholic. I was um, stateside I looked good wearing a uniform, but I was mixed up up here in my brain, in my thoughts, my thinking. Many of us marines, uh, it's a big outfit. If it's like a Force Recon, SEALs, Special Forces, they're small units. They already got their debriefing. Us, there were so damn many of us it was just, they just didn't. Us--I believe, I always believed they didn't have time to 01:16:00debrief what many of us you knew. And um, and um, I guess you could say that I blame the Marine Corps for overlooking us and--ah--didn't try to anything about it. I'm not the only one with that that way there was many of us and I'm sure there's many more. Today many of us are adjusted to it. Accepting the things that we went through in the past during my time. And now it took me a long time, many years to accept what I went through. In Okinawa the way I found out I had a problem was we were drinking, we were coming back on guard duty uh, point a weapon on me. I freaked out and I struck a guard. And uh, hitting an officer and 01:17:00hitting a guard, that's a no-no in the Marine Corps. But, at the time they didn't know I had the problem. I know now. So I spent three months in a brig there. And, finally I, I finally got out and went home. Landed in Milwaukee on March 1970. And, my problem continued all the way to camp, duty station was Camp Lejeune. I was drinking. I was drinking heavy. You might see me um, being in a company area, I look normal. Shit I was drinking just like anybody else, I was drinking vodka. I was--today I know what alcoholism means. None of it at the 01:18:00time I never heard of alcoholism or war-related you know, problems. That's just me. I didn't know all this. I know now. And uh, got drunk one night, came back and this uh, uh, officer there was a day wanted me to stand at attention. Uh, the boot. And I told him, "Sir, fuck you. I ain't no boot. I'm a marine just like you are. Trying to make me stand against the wall, put my nose on, sir I ain't gonna do it." And I exploded. I kicked a, there was a display window. I kicked that, smashed the whole window. And I hit that son of a bitch. I hit that 01:19:00officer. And um, you don't do that, but I did. It was toward the end of my career in the Marine Corps. Spent three months in the brig and got out, bad conduct discharge. And also I was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star, no Purple Heart. I had three rows of ribbons, I had jump wings, now I was a good marine. When you look, I looked like a good marine, but inside I was a sick marine or a sick human being. Today they know that uh, they know that what happened to us. Today they're doing something with Iraqis and all that. You see that on TV. I'm glad for them. I'm glad, you know that they're doing something about that. I 01:20:00came home, I was depressed. Yeah I was a marine, I was a proud marine. Took off my uniform and when I came home it was just my civilian clothes. A year later I talked to somebody in St. Paul, veteran officer. And I don't know how they did it. They worked something out with the Marine Corps. Six months later Marine Corps changed my discharge paper to general discharge honorable, honorable condition. So they, they, the ones that did worked with them. And the Marine Corps, they knew I was a good marine. And um, and through the eyes of Marines 01:21:00and non-Indian people, when somebody gets a, like my situation, some got a dishonorable discharge and some never corrected it. Me, I took time to correct it. I was fortunate to talk to this, say it was a destiny. It was meant for me to go through. Now if I never changed my discharge. If I died or, I would've never received a flag, but through the eyes and our Ho Chunk way of life, our traditional Ho Chunk way that was blessed to us, that flag really don't mean 01:22:00nothing. We call it just a rag. But I will tell you, I will explain more on that. When somebody goes to war and done what he has to do, and we look at him. He's welcome back in our Ho Chunk people. And we Ho Chunk people have our own flag and we give it to him and his family. 'Cause that's um [inaudible], United States flag means that's just a memory of what he went through. So that, their generation will always remember that. And also getting back to what I went 01:23:00through. Um, lotta others went through a lotta turmoils. As a parent, my mom went, my dad went through lot of turmoil what I went through. But then again, none of my brothers, or ma and dad ever cried 'cause we know it was my destiny and we accepted it as the part of way that life is. I came home as a great warrior. And they know I did a lot of killing there in Vietnam because they see 01:24:00visions like trees. We--we, I even to this day I look up visions, signs, visions. I did the same thing in Vietnam. I did that. That's how I survived. You know. Then finally I came home and uh, they were pleased that I accomplished something. Not only I got the respect from the Marine Corps, but the Marine Corps was the only one that ever showed respect to me. No one else did, except for my parents and family, and the Ho Chunk people. My people never showed respect to me, unless I happen to be another marine. They were brothers for life. After my discharge I uh, I was sick for long time and I drank. I was a 01:25:00skid row bum. I was just--1975 they finally took me to a treatment center. Then I finally understood what alcoholism. And also went through many times through the PTS program at Tomah Veteran Hospital. And the psychiatrist also staring always telling me, "I don't believe you. You were never scared." I said, "I'm a Ho Chunk and I know. I never was scared." See, non-Native American people, non-Indian people, we know and understand life. And today we are destroying our 01:26:00self. We are destroying the world. And we believe in a lotta spirits. See what non-Indian people, the white people came and tried to destroy us. We know we will have our country back again. We know that. And I'm about to ready close this. I'd like to thank my friend here to give me the opportunity to express my opinion. Some might, I might hurt others feelings, but I believe I have the 01:27:00right to express my opinion whether it hurts or offends others. But what I said and spoke was the truth and how I feel and how I felt, though I respect other nationality, white people, and other nationalities that lives among us. And I still respect my president of the United States, all presidents, and all commandants in all branches of service. And I love my flag, I love my country, I love my Ho Chunk people, and I also love my non-Indian people that live among 01:28:00us, the white people. And what I said about the atmosphere some will be mad. That needs to be correctly, directly corrected 'cause what he saying is, "Native American and the Ho Chunk of Wisconsin, we don't amount to nothing. We don't, we are dead people." When he mentioned our language is dead. So hopefully somebody will talk to that, correct that. And gentlemen, the ones that interviewed me, each one of yous has my respect and I thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to express my opinion, what I went through as a Ho Chunk warrior. 01:29:00May god bless each and every one of you. I love my flag, my country, and the president of the United States. Thank you.

DERKS: Thank you. Could I ask you one more question?

MIKE: Yes.

DERKS: How did you learn what it means to be a Ho Chunk warrior?

MIKE: It's a gift. Um, when I came home uh, my ma sung a warrior song for me. And uh, nobody among my warrior clan, society I mean, came and told me. They told me nothing. Um, that was maybe thirty years ago, thirty, maybe twenty-five, 01:30:00thirty years ago. I, myself, found out myself. 'Cause at that time after I sobered up I corrected my problems of alcohol and war problem, what needs to be done. And uh, then I uh, sat down, tried to understand who I am and where I belong. Finally I realized that I am pleased that I am a Ho Chunk warrior. That's how I found out. And uh, those letters that my ma saved, that helped me too. 'Cause uh, when I was working on it this past week for this interview, I thought back as an elder. As a, I'm also a Buffalo Clan leader. I'm not a 01:31:00spiritual leader, just a leader of my Buffalo Clan. And I look back and I look back at my own history. I said as a young man I went through, what I went through, I said to myself it is awesome. What I did, what is necessary of what my job was, what necessary that I done, it was necessary. And it was good that I did accomplish something. Not only for you people, but also Ho Chunk people, and others that live among us. That's how I found out being a warrior. I respect myself. And, that's why um, we are free. We have our problems. We have our 01:32:00problems, everyday problems. That's part of life. We have problems with the government. That's part of the system. And, yet we're free we can go anywheres we want. Don't have to sign no papers. Except if you're a marriage, you know the women's uh, she's the boss you know. Have to ask permission from her I mean. That's a strict rule that I abide by. Women, women for sure the bosses, not us. And um, thank you so much.

DERKS: No, thank you. And thank you for your service.

[Interview Ends]