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Interview with Daniel Burress [4/18/2002]

Ashley McKinney:

Did you volunteer or were you drafted?

Daniel Burress:

I was a gung-ho volunteer.

Ashley McKinney:

Were you married at the time you got...

Daniel Burress:

No. I was 21 years old, unmarried, but I was engaged.

Ashley McKinney:

How old were you when you started...

Daniel Burress:

Twenty-one. Twenty-one years old

Ashley McKinney:

Did you have a job before the war, when you started the war?

Daniel Burress:

Yes. I worked at Zenith Corporation at Austin and Dickens in Chicago. I was a material handler.

Ashley McKinney:

What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to war, like were you...

Daniel Burress:

Well, actually I didn't know I was going to war. I knew I was going to join the Marine Corps and go to boot camp and, hopefully, finish book camp; and I wasn't thinking a about a war breaking out, but a war broke out.

Ashley McKinney:

How did you feel about that?

Daniel Burress:

Well, you'd be lying if you said you weren't shaky, you know, because you, you are going to go because you love your country, but a lot of guys don't love it enough today for it, but you go. Things are hanging over your head when you're here, you know, things are always hanging over your head. You go to look for a job; you're classified as 1A. They don't want you to work for them because they feel like if they trained you, the Armed Forces will call you. They train you, they put a lot of money in training you. So for the average black man that goes in, he's trying to get this behind him and come back and get some of his benefits. He's really not thinking about, am I really going to go fight a war, but he knows that if a war breaks out, he's in the thick of it and you have to go with it.

Ashley McKinney:

Did any of your friends go with you

Daniel Burress:

No. I never went with a buddy plan or anything like that. I just know I wanted to be a Marine, and I just jumped right in two feet. Mom tried to stop me, everybody tried to stop me. I was at junior college at the time, and I just -- she tried to talk me out of it, I went and took the test. And once I took the test, I was so glad I passed, I flipped. I was on my way to being a Marine. It was just real important to be a Marine. I didn't want to go to the Army. Should have gone -- in hindsight, I should have gone into the Air Force, think more about an education. But I did end up in the Marine Corps, and boot camp was facing me. I'm wondering if I could do the boot camp, but I did it.

Ashley McKinney:

Who was your hero at the time you joined the _____.

Daniel Burress:

Does he have to be a soldier or anything like that?

Ashley McKinney:

Anything.

Daniel Burress:

My hero was Martin Luther King.

Ashley McKinney:

Where were you born?

Daniel Burress:

Chicago, Illinois.

Ashley McKinney:

What year?

Daniel Burress:

January 29th, 1943.

Ashley McKinney:

Where were your parents born?

Daniel Burress:

My mother was born in New Orleans and my father was born here.

Ashley McKinney:

Do you remember the first day you started, what was your first day like in Vietnam?

Daniel Burress:

First day of Vietnam?

Ashley McKinney:

Yeah.

Daniel Burress:

Oh man. Well, after 22 days on a ship, we got over after there were already Marines over there. And the first day was coming down the nets, loading up the boats, going to shore. But we weren't under fire, like some of the MarineS before us. We landed on the island and we set up our tents. This is what you would set up, tent city.

Ashley McKinney:

_______.

Daniel Burress:

No, that was Sergeant Barnes. Sergeant Barnes, yeah. But we all, the engineers, you know, when you use the word engineers, they built. They built bridges, they built houses like this, they build these for us. You know, we kind of helped, but they built the structures real sturdy. So our landing wasn't really a fighting landing. Do you know what I mean? It was a support. We came to support people that were there already.

Ashley McKinney:

Did you experience combat?

Daniel Burress:

Not hand to hand. Shooting out, yes, at enemies, yes. Most of my tour was replacing someone that went forward. Someone has to guard the enclave. You call it a camp or enclave. So we were in support. We sat in the perimeter all night. We were in the middle of firefights. You see the damage that was created the next night, you know. Sometimes you're firing yourself when your parameter is breached. You don't know whether you killed somebody or not, because the Viet Cong, they played mind games. They drag away their dead and they dust off the blood with tree branches, do you know what I mean? So you see, what you're seeing is a lot of Marines dead, but no Cong, no Viet Cong. And that's supposed to be mentally damaging to you, and they know it. So we got to the point where if you were in close contact with Viet Cong, you bring back an ear. I mean, it sounds cold, sounds gruesome; but in order to know you got one, you got to bring back an ear. There were companies that did that. Sometimes you'll find Marines looking at other Marines like they are John Waynes, because sometimes you're sitting back in the rear, guarding the camp, when they are going really out on recon missions. And you want to go, but if they say this is your duty to do this, you stand guard over their perimeter, so nobody going to breach that camp. And you'll see some real John Waynes, you know. It's like a Marine respecting another Marine, I mean, to the utmost, you know, they come back. They done some things, you know, that you wanted to maybe go out yourself, but you have to follow orders, you know, you do your part.

Ashley McKinney:

So you experienced patriotism _____

Daniel Burress:

Definitely

Ashley McKinney:

What what was a good day like?

Daniel Burress:

In Vietnam?

Ashley McKinney:

In Vietnam.

Daniel Burress:

A good day was a dry day, because it rained all the time. They call it the monsoon season. And monsoon is, I mean, it's got to be six to seven months out of a year, you're always wet. I mean, you got to change your socks about every four hours. You get rot crotch between your legs because you're always, you're always wet, so you get rotten. It gets rotten in here. Your skin gets dark and itches, and you're never dry so to get well. We call crotch rot some, do you know what I mean? Some other people might call it something more gentle like, you chafe between the legs, do you know what I mean? So you have to take care of yourself and keep yourself dry. So a good day is a dry day and a day without gunfire

Ashley McKinney:

So you didn't enjoy the environment?

Daniel Burress:

No, it rained too much. And if you're sitting in the perimeter, guarding the camp, and it's raining hard, you don't know if somebody's sneaking up on you. You can have a hundred grenades and you're not going to throw them because you're not going to hear nothing. I remember one time they had me by a creekbed and the water just coming down like Niagara Falls. And he said if you hear anything comes -- how am I going to hear anything? So that's a scary night, do you know what I mean?

Ashley McKinney:

What was a bad day like?

Daniel Burress:

Oh, a bad day was when you're stacking bodies. When you go and see what happened during the night. When you see the body count. When you're asked to stack bodies, and you stack bodies like maybe four across, four across this way, just like you have a sack of potatoes. And then they take them to the refrigeration truck. That's a bad day. After a firefight at night, you know, you get up and you see what was really done. You know by hearing all the noise and all the shooting going on, you know but you don't really know until you see. You go out and see gooks. I use the word "gooks," but that's what we called them, gooks. They are really Viet Cong or suspected Viet Cong, but they are dead. And I tell you, the most gruesome sight I thought I would ever see was a Vietnamese, Viet Cong soldier chained to a machine gun and burnt up to a crisp, because they chained him to that gun so he would sit there and just fire and fire and fire, and he'd better not stop firing because when he stopped firing, he's dead, because they are going to overrun him. In other words, you can't run, you cannot be a coward because he's chained to the gun. And the next morning when you see something like that, you say, man, you're just lucky. And 14 months is a long time time. If you're there on the front end of 14 months and you see that early, it's etched in your mind for a while. So you feel like, wow, am I going to get out of here, you know.

Ashley McKinney:

What type of food did you eat when you were there?

Daniel Burress:

Sea rations. Sea rations. I think my favorite was ham and lima beans, good. I hated them when I was in the States, but I loved them when I was in the bush. Sea rations were pretty good, because -- I don't know what they got to them, but they hook them up and you know how to cook them. And sometimes you're so tired and sleepy, you don't want to cook it, you just open it and eat it. You have your opener on your dog tags. You always have an opener on your chain, and you just choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, around your can and you open it up. And you got chocolate, things like that. That's why you see soldiers giving kids candy and stuff like that. It's always in the sea rations, and Americans are always generous with kids, you know. But you can't rub a child on the head in Vietnam. It's an insult. You know how we rub American kids on the head, you know, hey, kid. You do that over there and it's an insult to the adults. It's like your rubbing the sense out of their head or something. I don't know. Their sense of humor is backwards, it's reversed. Something that we think is gruesome, they laugh about, and something we think is funny, they look at us like we're crazy.

Ashley McKinney:

How did you know learn that?

Daniel Burress:

About thse customs?

Ashley McKinney:

Yeah.

Daniel Burress:

They kind of tell you once they see you doing wrong. The interpreters, they tell you, you know.

Ashley McKinney:

How did you and your friends entertain yourselves?

Daniel Burress:

Well, when you're in the bush, there is no entertaining, believe me. When you're in the bush, when you're really in the thick of things, there is no entertaining. All it is is just work parties. You're working, you're stacking sand bags, you're fortifying, you're digging holes deeper, you're doing things like that. You're always working. You're always wet. You're always tired. If you get R& R, now, you can go back to Okinawa, you can go to Bangkok, you can go to the Philippines. You can go back to one of the islands for R&R, and you might get a week or two of that, and then it's right back, you know. And there is such a thing as "in the rear." You can go to the rear. If you get wounded you can go to the hospital ship. These things are considered like a little recreation, when you get into those type of situations. But for the most part of the 14 months, you're there. It's no fun and games, it's nothing. Of course every once in a while the fighting stops and a basketball court or something might go up, and you get a chance to shoot a little hoops or something like that. You're not totally safe, but somebody is giving you the okay that you can do a little something like that. But most of the times guys want to play _____ or something like to that. I don't play. I'll write a letter.

Ashley McKinney:

Did you write a lot of letters to your family?

Daniel Burress:

Yes, I wrote quite a few letters. But you don't tend to put anything in there that's happening, you know. You just, you miss people. You miss the world. That's what we called it, the world. You say, I'll be glad to get back to the world because you really think you're in the outer limits when you're over there, you know. Actually, things just stop. You don't think about home anymore. When Martin Luther King got killed, we didn't even know for a while. And then when you do find out, you feel like you're fighting for someone else's freedom and you don't have your own. That's the -- and then the propaganda starts, you know, because Hanoi Hannah, she's a woman that broadcast over the radio. They drop leaflets and pamphlets, and they always say things like, Black man, why are you here, you don't have your own freedom in the United States and you're fighting here. And, you know, they try to just demoralize you, do you know what I mean? And after seeing a lot of dead that day, it's easy to be demoralized, do you know what I mean? But you're a Marine, you forget all that.

Ashley McKinney:

So you did experience racism?

Daniel Burress:

Oh, man. Most of the racism that you encounter is always in garrison. It's -- okay, for instance, I'm sitting in a jeep with a major. I was his driver. And a little boy approached me and said, hey, nigger, and I looked at him. And the major asked me, he said, his name was Von Vorgain (ph). I think it's like a German name. He had like a German name, Major Vorgain. He asked me, why didn't you react when he called you a nigger? And I told him that I know that he was told by some racist to say that to me. And I said, did you notice that when he said it to me he ran. So what am I supposed to do? Get out of the jeep, run after him into the bush and trip over a booby trap or a grenade myself? You know, I consider the source. I know who taught him that and they didn't forget to tell him to run. So, hey, I can't gain anything by chasing him, he's a kid. That's just one of the incidents. But for the most part white and blacks got along when, let's say, when the S-H-I-T hit the fan. When it's time to get it together, there's no color. The racism comes when you're back in garrison, when the fight is over, when you go back to Okinawa, when you go back to Camp Pendleton, when you get back to your base, when you leave Nam, it's all business as usual, you're back to racism. But when you're saving each others' lives, trying to get back to the world, you tend to see color doesn't matter. I had some, had some good friends, had some good friends, real good friends, white, you know, you can't dispute it, you can't deny it. But you do know that when you get back to the world, Camp Pendleton, when you get back to those places, that it's going to start again. It just pisses you off, you know, it does.

Ashley McKinney:

Did you feel that the Vietnamese appreciated that you were fighting for them?

Daniel Burress:

It's so mixed up over there, it was so mixed up. You know, when you're fighting, you're a Marine, you got orders to do things, you don't even know why you're fighting. They just tell you what you're supposed to do, what your job is when you get over there. You do know that when you hear that first round go over your head that now you're fighting to stay alive to get home. So you're actually following orders. Now, the Vietnamese people, I didn't trust anybody. I mean, it wasn't a cut-and-dried war like they war black pajamas and you wore Marine Corps clothes, because they could be farmers, they could be Viet Cong, but dressed like farmers when you come through. So you don't know who to call -- you got a little kid, he could be a Cong. Do you see what I mean, you don't know. You have a woman with an grenade underneath something, and she'll blow you up. So I was not trusting anybody, do you know what I mean? I never walked where someone else didn't walk. I'm not walking in new territory. If a footprint was there, I don't mind, I'll go there. I don't go in the bush. You got to be real careful. But I think for the most part, when you get to a village, all that's there are ladies. There's mamasan, nasion. Nasion is a young woman. Usually mamasan are older, they are mamasan. There's papasan, mamasan. A girl would be an nasion, and a boy would be a neison, like the car, neison, do you see what I mean? So that would be four people, right. Watch this, Itchy, Nei, Sa, Chey. But I think they appreciated, just a common farmer, yes. But a lot of them got caught up in the fight, do you know what I mean? You get a bored Marine, he'll shoot a farmer, he's bored. He hasn't had a fight. He's hot, he's always wet, he's always working on a working party somewhere, he's always digging a hole, he's always -- and they are bored. And if you're not on a mission, he'll do some dumb things. I have seen some dumb things.

Ashley McKinney:

_____ of an example?

Daniel Burress:

Of some dumb things. Do you want to know a dumb thing? I saw a guy come to Viet Nam for the first day. He got there in the morning, and he was dead in an hour. And he didn't get killed by the enemy, he got killed by friendly fire. Here's how that happened: He was eating chow, when we got chow. He was in the chow line. And another Marine had come out of the foxhole that night and he didn't clear his weapon. When you come out of the fox hole, you pull your bolt back on your rifle, and you've got to put you finger up in the chamber, now you know a bullet is not in there, because when you pull it back it's going to pop out anyway, and you pull it back in the magazine. Always clear your weapon when you come out of the foxhole. Well, this guy did not. But the strange thing about this shooting was, he had his rifle broken down in three pieces. He had the stock off, he had the fire mechanism out of the stock, and the barrel and receiver boot in his hand, but he forgot to take a round out of the chamber and the bolt went home. The bolt slammed home, and the bullet went out of the rifle and killed the guy. Now, do you know what happened to him? I'm looking for, what the heck was going to happen to this guy, you know, he's a Marine that killed another Marine. They just transferred him from one company to another. They transferred him from G Company to H&S Company, which is like an office. I think they were just trying to get him away from people that know about the shooting. Now, I'm sure that that body that went home, they said, they might have said killed in action. That's our government, killed in action. I think, you know, I just think that when a person's, a person gets killed in Vietnam, if you don't ask questions about how he died, you can get shammed. I mean, because all they are going to tell you is killed in action. They are not going to elaborate on what kind of action. Killed in action. If you really want to know, you have to write the Red Cross and make the Red Cross investigate for you. It's just like that.

Ashley McKinney:

Who was your closest friend?

Daniel Burress:

Well, when you're fighting everybody is your closest friend, everybody. See, and the Marine Corps is such a team, when you fight, you fight in teams and groups. When you're sitting in the perimeter, it's important that you know who is to your left and who is to your right. So I don't think you -- the only time I got a real friend was when I was on the last part of my tour and I became the colonel's driver, when I became the major's driver, the colonel's driver was my best friend. His name was Clark. I can tell you a story about Clark. I could tell you a good story on Clark. Do you want hear it?

Ashley McKinney:

Yes, I do.

Daniel Burress:

I was a lance corporal. It was May, May 5th, 1966, my last night in Vietnam. Anyway, the major told me, the major told me he was going to make me corporal that night, lance corporal. Man, was I happy. I'd been trying to make corporal for a long time. So he told me, he said, you can go to the NCO tent, if you'd like, tonight, you're an NCO, I'll make it official when I get back. He drove through live fire to get me a warrant for my becoming corporal, okay. That's two stripes and crossed rifles. And he told me I could go to the NCO club. So Clark had heard him say that, so when I went back to my little CP tent, I had my own CP tent, I was a driver for the major, so I deserved it, plus I had fought my 13 months, 14 months, 13 months. And it's the last 30 days, when to the rear, get the gear. And he drove, and I went to the NCO club, like he said. But Clark stopped me from going to the NCO club and said, let's go to my tent and he went and got a fifth of Seagram's 7. I asked him where did he get that from? You can have a Seagram's 7 bottle, it will be rot gut in there, it won't be Seagram's 7, it will be something, but it won't be that. But this, I knew, was real because he told me he got it from the sergeant major. And I asked him what did he pay for it, and he told me $30 for that bottle, because it's, you know, it was rare. And he told me, Burress, he said, nothing is too good, and he said, come on, let's have a drink. So we had a drink and we talked and we had a drink and we talked, and I was upset because I knew I was leaving the next day and I knew he would be there. He had another eight months to do. And, buddy, when you think about a guy got to be eight months and he's not coming, he's got odds against him for him coming out of there. So I'm really happy I'm going to go, but I don't want to go, do you know what I mean? Anyway, we just got a little drunk, you know. And when the major came back, they came and got me and they said, the major wants you in this tent. And I was standing in front of him, at attention, and I was bobbing and weaving. And he said, Burress, he said, I see you took me up on the offer to go to the NCO club. And I said, yes, sir. And he said, that's what I told you to do, that's what you did. And he read me my -- he swore me in as a corporal, and he really talked to me that night, like the length of my service and everything. And that was quite a night. Clark, his name was Clark. Corporal Clark and I, we cried together that night. We cried for different reasons. We cried for numerous reasons, you know. You know, I kind of liked him and I kind of like sort of trusted him; but in the back of my mind I know that when, if he and I were back in garrison, he'd be back to his old ways and I'd be back to mine, you know. When I say mine, I mean, I'll be guarded, I'm guarded against white boys, and they are very guarded against us, you know. So that's just a story of a friend, a friend that I should have gotten an address for, because I would love to see these guys again, you know. Those are things that you wish you had done, you know, gotten the addresses of guys, you know, that might have made it back, you know.

Ashley McKinney:

So you didn't really keep in touch with that many friends from Vietnam?

Daniel Burress:

No. A few from Chicago, one of them worked at Phillips High School, named Ware, George Ware. And just a few, Emmett Rucker, he lived on 83rd and, right off of Racine. I see a few guys, but I wish I could see more, you know. Even when I went to the parade, I didn't see many, I didn't see any. I want to advertise for some of the guys, do you know what I mean? Sometimes you need a friend, you know. That's why I joined the _____ for Marines. It's a _____ for Marines Association. It's a black Marine organization, just get a little camaraderie, so that's good.

Ashley McKinney:

What day did you join?

Daniel Burress:

Well, I just joined about, I think I joined about March, April, April, maybe 14th, 2002, just recent, the other day. I think I'm going to be their veterans affair coordinator. I'll see how it works.

Ashley McKinney:

Did you ever -- did you experience yourself doing any bravery thing?

Daniel Burress:

Did I do myself?

Ashley McKinney:

Yeah. Did you ever experience yourself achieving something like _____.

Daniel Burress:

Well, I don't know how to say it. I just know that when the firefights broke out, the sergeant and I have to go and see what it was that's happening, you know. And you're running across those rice paddy dikes, they call them dikes. They are squares of high, the water is in the middle and the rice is in there, and you're running back and forth trying to find out why a Marine fired in this direction, who is there, and checking on the dead. And that's a scary. It's a scary situation, do you know what I mean? And you're shook up. I mean, you're shook up because you're running all night trying to figure it out. It comes with rank. When you got rank in Vietnam, you got to move.

Ashley McKinney:

What was your --

Daniel Burress:

My ranking in Nam was corporal, but my final rank was Sergeant E5, but that was after I got back. So heroics, I don't know. I can't say that I -- I had any heroic moves. I know that I did my job, and I know there were a lot of scary jobs that I went on, but I'm no John Wayne. I just did my job, what they asked me to do.

Ashley McKinney:

What was your responsibility?

Daniel Burress:

With my outfit? I was a team leader, a squad leader, I'm sorry. I was a squad leader. And a squad leader has four fire teams. It's like four men, four men, four men, four men that makes up a squad, okay. When you're in the offensive position, you control all the fire teams. You tell them where to go, how to advance, when to get up off their butts and run, do you know what I mean? Nobody is going to be lazy or slow. A fire team is a group that works together and a squad leader has to coordinate it, you know. So that was my job, to coordinate the squad of fire teams. They call us grunts. We're grunts. When someone asks you your MOS, I was 0311, and that's a grunt. That means you grunt while you're pumping those hills, trying to get to the man, the enemy. There are different types of MOSs, like I had another one, I was motor transport, it was 0311, 0331. Anyway I was in motor transport also. But during the end, I ended up on the engineer company. Engineers, they build bridges. You know, say somebody blow up a bridge and we've got to get across that water, engineers will start building a bridge. They are builders. They are explosive experts, you know, and they disarm things. We lose a lot of Marines disarming booby traps and things like that. So I was in several outfits over there. You go where they need you. If they put your TAD, which is Temporary Active Duty, somewhere else, then you come back to your unit, you know.

Ashley McKinney:

Were you hurt in the _____.

Daniel Burress:

My feelings. Well, hurt, yeah, scratched up, things like that, but not wounded, not wounded. If you get a scratch or a cut, it's going to look like this. When I look for them, I can't find them. Things like the keloid, like -- anything in Vietnam, you get a scratch, a cut, is not going to get well. The air is not like in the air in the United States. It's not just going to clear up and get a scab on your arm, it's not. It's going to stay pus'y, nasty, but they are not going to take you out for a scratch. You got to get wounded to go out on a hospital ship. When you get on a hospital ship, now you're out in the ocean, the air is different. In Vietnam, it is nasty, hot, sticky, nothing is going to get well. So by the time that, weeks later when that thing starts to healing, it's going to be like a keloid, you know. I have them all over me. You get them, see? You get them all over you, you know, but you're not going anywhere. I had guys in my outfit trying to get hit. I mean, actually holding their hands up. They are look for the million-dollar wound. Do you know what the million-dollar wound is?

Ashley McKinney:

No.

Daniel Burress:

A million-dollar wound is when you're trying to get shot. Some guys were that spooked. They were trying to get hit, but they want to get hit like in the hand, and that's a million-dollar wound if you don't shatter any bones, it just goes right through your hand, but you got to leave the country to get well. Do you see what I mean? If you get shot in your leg, in the calf, and it goes through your calf, that's a million-dollar wound, you're leaving, you're out. Do you know what I mean? And maybe you got six months to do, but it might take six months for that to heal, you're not coming back. If it takes two months to heal and you've got four months left, it wasn't a million-dollar wound, do you know what I mean? So a lot of guys just waving their hands trying to get shot because they can't take it anymore. They can't take this kind of stuff. Everybody can't take it. This ain't for everybody. When you get to go home, you know that your 14 months of pure hell, whether you were actually in the fight or whether you were sitting in the dark waiting for somebody to overrun your camp, you never know. You don't know what to expect. All you want is daylight to come. You fight better in the day than at night, and they are not coming until at night.

Ashley McKinney:

Did you have a faith when you started the war, and, if not, did you leave with one?

Daniel Burress:

Faith?

Ashley McKinney:

Were you into the church or --

Daniel Burress:

Oh, I was in prayer a lot, I prayed a lot. I mean, I wasn't affiliated, you know. You grow up Baptist and you know all your teaching when you were here. There is many a night you call on that. You pray, you pray, you pray. You pray that those days go by fast and that you get out of there. That's the kind of faith you have. So, I mean, you cannot go into a battle thinking that you're going to be the one to get killed. You got to think that you're going to make it, and you make it. But then when you make it, you feel bad about having made it because a lot of your friends didn't make it, so it's guilt. It's guilt either way you look at it. So if you're dead, you don't have the guilt, but if you're alive, you wonder why me. Why did I get to come home. All my friends didn't get to come home, you know. I had friends that didn't know that if you were 30 days short they were supposed to be in the rear. I knew, I brought it up, I went back to the rear. I brought it up. I dared to tell them that when your 30 days, then you're supposed to be back in the rear, I'm not supposed to be in the middle of this fighting anymore. And I got to try for the major by speaking up. I had friends that had less than 30 days, less than 10 days and they were dead, got killed. And we were a bunch, believe me. You know, I'm going to tell you something: I really do think, I really do feel that it's uneven. It's uneven when you're here and knowing that you have to go there so that you come back here and try to find a decent, make a decent living. It's unfair here before you leave. It's unfair there when you get there. The numbers that are fun -- if you want to just come out and say it, you just say the blacks were always in the front and they were dropping like flies. It's almost like, you know, maybe they tried to alter population, hoping we didn't come back, you know. When I did come back, I was very, very unpatriotic. When I went to basketball games and they did the pledge of allegiance, I was so sick that I did not even stand up. People turned around and looking at me. Do you think I cared? I didn't care. When I came back home, I came back home to tanks, because Martin Luther King had gotten killed and there were tanks in the middle of Madison. I just left that stuff. And I come back home and I got tanks in the middle of Madison Street, people are rioting, looting, you know, it just -- and I come home, there was no big welcome home. There was none of that kind of stuff. It was just you just come home and go back to work. Do you see what I mean? See, the war was never declared. It was a very unpopular war, so when you see a guy with a uniform on at this time, you think he's a killer, he's a butcher, you know. How are we supposed to feel? I want to feel like a hero, I want to feel like I've been away and I fought for my country and I did my part. Some guys got deferred by going to college and their dads got them out of, their important dads in Congress got them out. They don't send their kids. I looked at it like -- I have always felt this way: I think -- it looked like old congressmen and representatives, they sheltered their kids and get them off into schools and get them deferments and sent them somewhere safe, but never, they won't send them to Vietnam. But it's hard for a black to say, you can say you're a student, but they'll maybe shoot that down, or say, well, you're not taking enough hours, go, you're classified 1A, you know. There's so much racism that you just got to believe that everybody is not a racist. It's scary. It's scary, the racism that is going on. And so if you don't do anything fair here, how do you think they will do something fair there. I used to think they're probably shocked to see me back home. Hell, how did he make it? Do you know what I mean?.

Ashley McKinney:

When you came back home, did you ever experience flashbacks?

Daniel Burress:

Oh, yeah. You wake up many nights thinking about different things. I think the biggest flashback I had was a friend of mine, he wanted to make corporal so bad. His name was Jose Chappell. When they finally made him corporal, they put him out on an ambush. He went on an ambush one night. They sent him on an ambush, and the ambush is like a piece of pie. It's almost like if you have two sticks sitting up here, this is your field of fire. Right here you get a stick, and that's the only way you can fire. Now, you always have one man on watch at all times. You're sitting in this ambush and you're waiting for the enemy to come through, maybe like a path. And you're on both sides of the road, there's another marine sitting, and you know what your responsibility is if something breaks out, if somebody walks through your perimeter, mainly the enemy. And Jose Chappell went out on a night reconnaissance ambush. And somebody must have fell asleep on watch, and the enemy came through and they panicked. When they woke up, the enemy was all on them, and they were firing and to hell with the field of fire. They were -- the ammo sticks, they were just shooting, and Jose got killed. He got shot up so bad, he had a flak jacket. You wear flak jackets for grenades, if they go off and you're by the grenade, where your body, your heart, your vital parts are protected, not your head. You got a helmet on, but your face -- a lot of things can happen, but they try to protect the vital parts. But Jose was shot three times through the flak jacket, so it was at close range. And it was probably by his own men because somebody is firing and they just woke up, do you know what I mean? And just like John Wayne, they always ask for that cigarette. He's still alive. And we could not believe he had just made corporal that day, wanted to make it so band, and he died that day. You know, it's just sad.

Ashley McKinney:

Do you think you were doing the right thing?

Daniel Burress:

No, but you don't think you're doing the right -- you know that we're fighting people of color. And these looked like just everyday people, just like us. They just don't speak our language. And we don't know what the United States have against them. And we do -- when you see the simple farmer and you got a Vietnamese interpreter and an American captain or colonel approaching them, the guy looks like a regular farmer, but somehow they make a decision that he's not a farmer, that he might -- they go by his age, he's young enough to be a fighter. And you see all kind of things. You see them hit him in the face with a rifle, anything to get him to say something. And if he don't know nothing, he'll probably just get shot dead. You see some crazy things. And I don't think it was a just war because it was never declared. If you declare a war, you fight it. You know, you got the green light to fight it, do you know what I mean? But if you got politicians talking about hold up, don't go here, don't go there, you're limited, so all you are, you're a sitting duck. You've been told not to fire, not to go in this area, now this area start firing on you, you know. Things can happen to you when you're sitting waiting for orders. And we never, the war was never declared, so the war was never on all-out fight. If we had all-out fighting, it was because we were pissed off because we were losing Marines, and we didn't get the green light to go and retaliate. Do you know what I mean? So you got little old men sending you off to war to be killed, and they are not really telling you that you can fight the war to win it. So you get all wounded, leg all shot up, come home with crutches, and for what? You don't understand. For what? Then you come back to racism: Business as usual. Only now it's not the Klan, it's guys in three-piece suits. You know, I'd rather see a guy with a costume on hating me than a guy that I don't really, sitting on the other side of a desk. He discriminate against me and I don't even know him. He's pretending that he's not, but he is. So I'm suspect. I am suspect in this world today. If I was to tell my kids about a war that might be coming, I'd sit them down and I would talk to them and tell them all their dad feels about this white man's war. And if he wanted to go after I got through with him, I don't think he'd be a son of mine.

[CONCLUSION OF INTERVIEW]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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