Joseph Endanawas served in United States military police

Veteran Joseph Endanawas

PETOSKEY, MICHIGAN – Once a person signs their military draft card, it means they could be put in situations where their lives are on the line.

“Once you sign on the dotted line, you’ve given them the authority to put your life on the line. And you don’t have too much choice on what you are going to do or where you are going to be stationed. But like I said what happened, happened,” stated Joseph Endanawas, a veteran of the U.S. military services who is originally from Manitoulin Island.

Mr. Endanawas is originally from Sheshegwaning First Nation, having been born and raised there. “I left Sheshegwaning when I was 20 years old,” he told The Expositor. “But I would always come back for Christmas and other special events. Most everyone did in those days.”

“I saw a lot of my community members and friends go into the mining profession, but this never crossed my mind,” said Mr. Endanawas. “I remember our grade eight teacher at Charles C. McLean School telling us that if we didn’t get our high school diploma, we were likely to end up working in the mines underground; but if we graduated, you might work above ground. I knew lots of people from Sheshegwaning who worked underground in the mines and did well, but I never considered it.”  

“I started out mostly working in Toronto, mostly in small businesses manufacturing various items,” Mr. Endanawas told The Expositor. “I remember being on a holiday at the end of October 1966. We were out hunting, and the snow was two feet deep on the Island. My brother-in-law was there, and he lived in the (United) States, and said, ‘why don’t you come back with me to Michigan and work there?’ So, in 1966, I moved to Michigan and found a job in a small manufacturing shop.”

“I also applied for a job with General Motors, and got a job operating manufacturing machines,” said Mr. Endanawas. He stayed with G.M. in Flint, Michigan until May 1968. “It was a good job; I enjoyed it.”  

Mr. Endanawas stated, “I came back to Manitoulin Island every chance I got, my mother was still living there. I used to go home every year for Christmas and other holidays.” 

“We would cross the border back and forth, and the border guards would always ask us if we had draft cards,” said Mr. Endanawas. “I didn’t have one, no one did. But I decided one day I’m going to get a draft card so in March, 1968 I signed on, just before things got crazy in the world. In May, 1968 I got the call from the military to be ready to go. I was first stationed in Fort Knox in Louisville, Kentucky at the big armoured compound base. This is where I did my basic combat training.” 

“I remember one of our commanders telling the 250 of us, how many of you are ready to go kill the enemy?” said Mr. Endanawas. “There were 250 of us, and we were put through intense mental and knowledge training as part of it. Every morning and afternoon we would gather, and as the days went on each day the questions we would be asked got harder and the group smaller. At the end of it there were  only 24 of us left.”

Mr. Endanawas, who currently works for the Union of Ontario Indians and resides in Petoskey, Michigan explained, “the reason we had to go through this daily testing was they wanted to recruit us to be officers in the army.” 

“I was deployed to the military police which is what I wanted, because I saw that they had nice uniforms and vehicles and some drove armed tanks.” 

“I got in the military police because of how well I did in the intense testing,” said Mr. Endanawas.

“I went to Fort Gordon, in Georgia, for military police training for three months,” said Mr. Endanawas. “After graduating, and being a smart ass I volunteered to go to Germany, because I knew they had beautiful women and good beer. But they sent me to the other side of the world to Tokyo to a large self-enclosed camp with many hospitals for wounded veterans. The hospitals were always full and my job was as a desk sergeant with the military police.” 

“But with authority also comes responsibility,” said Mr. Endanawas. “They used to call those who served in the army who had gone through trauma as being shell shocked. Now it is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When the soldiers would go to a movie or a restaurant, we would have to go with them and watch them to make sure they didn’t go a little crazy or take off.”

Mr. Endanawas served in that job for 19 months. “I wasn’t stationed in Vietnam but had to go there when soldiers were being picked up in planes to bring back to the States. And at the airports you could see the shelling and bombing that had taken place.” 

In May, 1970 Mr. Endanawas came back to San Francisco from where he had left. When I was there  I always wanted to talk Anishinaabe language but I had no one to talk to. So when I got to California I called my sister, I think it was on a Saturday afternoon, and  couldn’t get the words out in Anishinaabe. I knew what to say but I couldn’t form the words because it had been so long since I had talked to someone in Anishinaabe. I had to call her again to get everything I wanted her to do done. The next day  flew to Detroit to meet my sisters, their husbands and my mom. I met them at the airport. And it was not like today where everyone is on ­­­­­­. I had to send a letter, to let them know I would be at the airport and when.”

“I had to be in reserves for four more years,” said Mr. Endanawas, “so altogether I served six years.”