From sports to war, Citizens talks life
TUTTLE, Oklahoma — For as long as he can remember, Muscogee (Creek) citizen Johnnie Warrior has been around sports.
“It has been since I was five,” he said. “All these years I have been competing.”
Warrior said that growing up, all of his friends and relatives were always playing sports and he naturally followed suit.
“We were five-year-old boys playing,” he said. “We had a good little team.”
From that moment, it was always sports for Warrior.
“We had basketball, volleyball and baseball,” he said. “We did not have football but it was lunch hour football for us.”
Warrior was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1968. He was attending at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma when he was drafted.
“I got drafted and spent two years in the Army,” he said.
He said while in the U.S. Army he volunteered for every bit of training he could do while he was still in the U.S.
“I was told if you volunteered for enough stuff you won’t go overseas,” Warrior said.
He said however, they did not tell him that some of the things that a soldier could volunteer for extended your time of service.
I was in Airborne school, NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) school and beginning to go to Special Recon school but I was worn out so I decided not to do it,” Warrior said.
Then he was told he was going to Vietnam. He spent a year overseas.
“I was a squad leader,” Warrior said. “We did night patrols, daytime ambushes and security at times.”
He said he was strictly infantry. His responsibility was to protect the five to six other soldiers in his squad.
“The responsibility was all on me to take care of these guys,” Warrior said. “If you were with me, I am going to learn everything about you.”
Warrior wanted to know all he could about his soldiers for a very important reason.
“If we get into a firefight, will this guy hang in there or will he get so frightened he will lock-up (freeze),” he said.
Warrior said he carried all he could when he went out on an ambush.
“I carried a .45 (pistol), bayonet (knife), a regular knife, grenades and we had jackets that we could load all of our magazines (extra ammunition),” he said. “We all had M-16’s.”
He remembers when he was in a gun battle with the North Vietnamese soldiers and his squad was pinned down.
“I remember my mother gave me a watch,” Warrior said. “I was in the water when we took cover and the mud took my watch off.”
Warrior told himself that he could not lose the watch. So there he was, in the midst of battle, searching for his watch.
“We were getting shot at, at the same time,” he said.
Luckily, while fighting the enemy, he found his watch while under heavy fire. One of the bullets hit the dirt, spraying his face with mud and dirt. Face scratched up, muddy and in the heat of battle Warrior looked to his fellow soldier.
“(The bullet) hit the soldier that was next to me on his gun and went onto his jaw,” Warrior said.
Warrior said he was exposed to Agent Orange. AO is a chemical that contained dioxin and was used during the Vietnam War. Soldiers that were exposed to it has had health problems.
He said during that time he and the other soldiers did not know that AO was being sprayed out in the areas where they patrolled.
“We slept in the mud and in the water,” Warrior said.
After serving a year overseas, he finally returned home to Kellyville, Oklahoma but when he flew into Tulsa, Oklahoma it was not what he expected.
“Nobody said ‘Congratulations,’ or ‘Welcome Home,’” Warrior said. “I found out later we were getting called ‘Baby Killers,’ and all kinds of bad names.”
He finally was able to get ahold of his family and they came to get him from the airport.
“I said ‘Can you come by and pick up a military boy?’” Warrior said. “All I heard was screaming and hollering. They were happy I was back.”
While overseas, he had a fear of losing a hand or foot.
“It would have kept me from sports,” Warrior said.
It was an adjustment coming back from Vietnam and watching sports helped acclimate him back to life back in Oklahoma.
“I started getting calls to come and play softball,” he said. “At first, I didn’t but I decided to play.”
After that he was back to what he did before he was in the armed forces.
“I wanted to play as much as possible,” Warrior said.
Warrior does not play anymore but he still stays busy. He played up until 2013, but before the 2014 season he became sick.
“I’m limited physically,” he said. “That bothers me some because I know it is the Agent Orange that is the cause of that.”
He said he has been working with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs but it is still an ongoing process.
“I want them to admit that it (Agent Orange) causes illness,” Warrior said. “No telling how many Vietnam vets came home and passed away and nobody knew why.”
Warrior said he stays busy by going to watch the younger generation play.
“I have grandsons that play,” he said. “They are involved in sports. I will go and watch it anywhere.”
He said he feels this is something he needs to do because he was always moving and going to do things, as much as he could.
“They keep me active,” Warrior said.