On April 7th 2005 I, Michael Lee Evans II, interviewed my former teacher, Mr. Charles Patrick Dugan, about his life and experience in Del Rio, Texas. This took place at my home on 109 Philemon Street. This was done as a class project and also as an effort to preserve local Del Rioían history.
ME - Michael Lee Evans II (interviewer)
CPD - Charles Patrick Dugan (interviewee)
ME: The date is April 7th, 2005. The time is approx. 4:00pm. My name is Michael Lee Evans II and Iím going to be interviewing my former teacher, Mr. Pat Dugan, about his past experiences in Del Rio, Texas.
ME: test, test. (Static) Ok. Please state your full name.
CPD: Charles Patrick Dugan.
ME: What is your ethnic background?
CPD: Iím half Irish and half Italian.
ME: Can, uh, you give a little bit of your family history?
CPD: My family was one of the original founders of Del Rio. The Gerola family. Uh, My family came in from Vera Cruz, Mexico. Uh, Italian immigrants, they didnít want to go up through Ellis Island because of the prejudices of the way the Italians were treated. And they came up, uh, through Eagle Pass and came into this country and settled in Del Rio in 1882.
ME: When and where were you born?
CPD: Del Rio, Texas. August the 14th, 1946.
ME: Did you live anywhere before Del Rio?
CPD: Nope. Del Rioís been my whole life. I wouldnít live anywhere else.
ME: Uh, what keeps you here in Del Rio?
CPD: Itís, like uh, I tell everybody. Itís La Frontera. In Spanish it means The Frontier. Ah, you get the best of both cultures. Iím totally bi-cultural. I feel very uncomfortable living anywhere thatís not bi-cultural. Um, I like Del Rio because itís...weíre not the United States. People can lie to you and say we are. Weíre not. Weíre not Mexico either. Weíre a totally different unit of the United States. We think different. We vote different. We act different. We eat different. Everythingís different. And I love that diversity. I love being able to slip across and go into Mexico. And I enjoy the two cultures colliding and coming together. I love that. Itís dynamic.
ME: Can you remember some of the places that used to be in Del Rio that are not longer present?
CPD: The Gay 90 drive in, the old mustang inn. Fifteen center. Places where the young people would hang out and have fun. Um, I feel sorry for the kids today cause their idea of fun is hanginí around at the mall and walkiní around, breathing recycled air. Yea. We had a lot of fun. We, uh, lot of ,lot of, fun. We had a lake walk. A lot smaller, a lot more personal. Beautiful pecan trees out there though. When the lake filled it killed all that. But, uh, it was just a small town and a beautiful town. Ah, I might through this in. Ah, Avenue F, or pardon me as uh, weíve now named it Veterans Boulevard, for whatever reason, I havenít figured that out yet. Um, I guess for a guilty conscience because this town sure has not been helpful to veterans in the past. Uh, Veterans Boulevard, we used to stand out in the middle and do road races at 9:00 and 10:00 oíclock at night. You donít want to do that now. There was no cars on Avenue F. Youíd see maybe every two or three minutes a car show up. Uh, it takes you two minutes to cross now, ok.
ME: Uh, What were some of your favorite things to do in Del Rio during your earlier years here?
CPD: Uh, I loved ham radio when I was a kid. I was half nerd and half athlete. And, uh, I loved building radios. Uh, this was before we didnít have computers and stuff like that. And I felt power building something and being able to get on the air and makiní contact and talkiní to somebody half way around the world with somethiní I built with my hands. Uh, my first ham radio I built out of spare parts that Mr. Avila gave me, and I talked to a nun in Quito, Ecuador. And I talked to her when the earthquake hit. So I was getting results before it was coming on the TV and I felt so powerful. I felt God-like. And Iíve always had this obsession with beiní, beiní able to know whatís going on. And I guess thatís what led me in the military to be in Reconnaissance. I like to, I like to have my binoculars on somebody. I like to, I like to feel like Iím watching them and their not seeiní me. I like to stalk, I like to do that. Itís in me. Itís my nature.
ME: Um, what were, excuse me. Were you involved in any activities here in Del Rio such as football, fishing, boxing, etc., when you were younger?
CPD: Iím not a team sport guy. I was a boxer and I was into Judo. I never wanted to play football. Uh, I didnít have any desire to play football, baseball, or basketball. To me I thought they were wimp sports, I still do. I was a boxer. I, if I lost or I won it was on me. I didnít want to be a little insect in there helping the hive win anything. I, and Iím not being mean, but itís just who I am. I am an individual person. I want to be the one that either I win or I lose. I donít want excuses. And thereís nobody else to blame in that ring, youíre the only one. And I, I just didnít want to play football. My, the coach at Del Rio was real angry at me cause I wouldnít play. But I was the strongest guy...I was benching about 320, 350 in high school. Thatís without steroids, you know. Thatís before the juice was around. Uh, I was a strong guy. And he begged me to play football. I just told him I donít want to be out there and getting my guts stomped out so the quarterback can get a, can get a scholarship. Iím not gonna do that. Im not a, im not a social insect.
ME: Um, have you ever served in the US military?
CPD: ah, well I wasnít in the military. I was in the Marine Corps. Thereís a big difference between the military and the marine corps. And uh, weíre arrogant, weíre, weíre egotistical, weíre full of ourselves but thatís ok. I like that. And, um, I was very lucky. I got in the marine corps. And I had the right stuff to be in the best unit in the marine corps. I was in 1st Recon Delta company. I loved it. Uh, again reconís a small unit. There were only 250 recon marines when I was in the marine corps out of 190,000 marines. And I was one of them. I was one of the youngest members accepted...and I liked it because recon marines our job is to go out, find the enemy, see him without him seeiní us and get back. Our job wasnít to go out and get in a fist fight. Our job was to go out and be good enough to reach up and go gotcha. And I just, for some reason that just tickles me to death. I donít know, I love, I love doiní it. Because we call in the coordinates, Charlie would get smoked and he wouldnít know that we were in the neighborhood. And I just loved it. Thatís, thatís what I was. I didnít want to be a grunt, walking around just carrying 200 pounds like a farm animal. Again Iím not a social insect.
ME: Uh, during what years were you in the marine corps?
CPD: I was uh, I joined the marine corps in 1965 and served till 1971 active duty. And got out of active duty and stayed on as a SERE instructor. Survival, Escape, Resistance to interrogation, and Evasion until 1991. It was a pretty damn good run teaching recon marines. And I taught thousands. And I was in Vietnam 66'-67'. I was there during some of the heaviest combat of the Vietnam war. And I was on some of the heaviest battles of the Vietnam war. Hill 81 north, I was on Hill 861 for a time, I was on Hill 724, I was up in the Ivan pass, I was up on hill 855 called Arizona territory. Uh, that was probably the toughest place Iíve ever been in my life. That was, uh, marines were dying there. Uh, no disrespect to the boys over in Iraq right now. Theyíve lost 1500 plus guys for, you know. Theyíre really victims. Itís not a head to head type of thing. Um, I was in a battle where nearly 550 marines died in one day. Thereís a big difference there. You know, thereís a big difference. Uh, when I was over there it was, it was, it was a lot of death.
ME: Um, how did you come to be in the Marine Corps?
CPD: Um, my uncle run a bar and one time I, we had a lot of army, air force guys drink there. Or air force guys, it was Air Force then. But, uh, Korean War was on and I saw this Marine walk in the bar and I watched everybody give him respect. And I felt the air change, and I thought...I donít want to be in the herd. I want to be somebody they respect. And thatís the way I been all my life, you know. Play hard or go home. Just like the Baylor girls said. Play hard or go home. Thatís me. And I want to be the best.
ME: Um, I understand that you did serve in Vietnam. Uh, can you take a little bit of time to describe what happened to you there. Some of the things that happened.
CPD: Well like I say, I went overseas with 3rd battalion 3rd marines kilo company. And I got, when I got there the unit got decimated. I mean just got destroyed. And, uh, they were gonna send the unit back, uh, to Okinawa. To be refitted because, we just got, we got under some heavy combat. I was a machine gunner by the way. That was my MOS. Wasnít rocket science but it was machine gunner. And I was a good machine gunner. But my gunnery Sgt. took a liking to me. He was a big Italian guy named Gunnery Sgt. DíAngelo. And, um, he knew I was half wop so that was good enough. Half a wopís better than no wop, right. So he just told me, he said I want you to go with me. Lets go to my old unit and he got me in recon. And I went into recon on the job training. Uh, but most of those boys had two years of schools and knew how to do all that jump and dive club stuff and I didnít. I went in there and learned the hard way. But back in those days I was as hard as woodpecker lips so I could take anything they threw at me.
ME: Um, did you get to interact with any of the locals in Vietnam?
CPD: Yea, I run into some guys from Vietnam. Bless there hearts one of them was a guy, Roger Blanks. He uh, Roger was uh, in the army and I was walkiní along side of the road coming back from a patrol, dusty, dirty. Army guys ride, Marine corps walks thatís just the way it is. And I heard somebody yell out Hey Dugalito! Only one whoíd call me Dugalito is somebody that come from the hood here in Del Rio. And it was Roger Blanks. I run into him and another boy named Padilla, Blackie Padilla from San Felipe uh, was in Vietnam with me. Um, thirteen boys from Del Rio joined and uh, four of us come home. So Del Rio put a lot of boys in the ground because of Vietnam.
ME: What about any of the natives from Vietnam. Did you interact with any of them?
CPD: Oh yea. Um, I have nothing but love for the people. I uh, you know I, Iím, thanks God. Again being raised on the border. When your raised on the border, youíre two kinds of people here in Del Rio, People that interact with the Mexican community, and the people that donít. You know and you donít have to have a degree to know who they are. You see all the little white boys hanging with the white boys. And you see all the little mejicanos hanging with all the little mejicanos. And every, and in between you see guys like you and me that say, hey you know change is good. You know, lets get in here and mix this thing up. Well when I was in Vietnam I learned a little bit of there language, uh, enough to survive on, Give me a kiss and Whatís for dinner. You know, type of deal. And I, ah, learned their culture. And the most important thing I brought home was I learned their religion and I love their religion. Beautiful. Buddhismís a beautiful religion. Itís a beautiful religion. And I brought it home. And um, I donít want to make anybody upset by that but, uh, to me these people treated me good. And I think thatís the reason Iím still alive. Uh, I didnít go in there to be William the Conqueror. I went over there, uh, I like people. I like to talk to people. And I would bring candy to the kids. Such a simple thing. But I would go in these little villages. When youíre in infantry you weigh every ounce of stuff in your pack so when you carry a bunch of candy in your pack you must love somebody. And I would carry this candy and give the candy to the kids in the village. And Iím not gonna tell you how many times they warned me where A the booby traps were, or B where the ambushes were. See cause they didnít want Uncle Sugar to die. They wanted my to come back with more goodies. Such a simple little thing and it was called winning hearts and minds and we never got it right. We went over there like, you know, weíre big, bad and ugly and, um, let me tell you something...they wore us down and they kicked our ass so donít let nobody tell you that we won. We didnít win at that war, we lost it. We lost it because of stupidity. And we lost it because of bad generals. Wes Morland was an idiot. Uh, we lost it because the president was an idiot. Victor defends like Rumsfeld was an idiot. We did not lose the war on the ground. We lost the war because of bad leadership. And it wasnít because of Jane Fonda either, let me throw that in. I hear all these veterans say Well Jane Fondaís a traitor and she ought to be shot. Jane Fonda doesnít bother me one way or the other. The difference between Jane Fonda and President Bush is Jane Fonda went to Vietnam. Thereís a big difference there.
ME: Um, as far as customs go, can you remember any customs or anything that happened in the daily life of the Vietnamese that might be different from that of the US?
CPD: Well there was some real, real big things that, that, that bored me. One thing that bored me the most was the fact that they were simple people. And they didnít care about democracy and Thomas Jefferson and all that crap we were trying to give Ďem over there. And they didnít care about, you know we need to start following our own constitution instead of running around and trying to give it to somebody else. We donít even follow it over here. Um, the Vietnamese people wanted to be left alone. And let me tell you where I learned the most about the culture. I learned the most because in the daytime Vietnam belonged to us but at nighttime it belonged to the enemy. And I learned that difference, and I was trapped in a village one night and I spent the whole night there, uh, with a black corpsman, when the VC came into see the girls and eat and have a good time and go back into the jungle and I stayed out in this little tin outhouse for the entire night, watching what was goiní on. And thatís the same village that I walked through in the daytime and they all treated us like conquerors. So I learned the Vietnamese people, their adaptable, their malleable, and their very tough guys. Uh, if our service guys were fighting the Vietnamese over in Iraq right now theyíd be getting their asses kicked. Pardon me on that, but they would. The Vietnamese were tough, formidable foes. Iraqis think they are but, Iraqis canít shoot. Every once in a while when they hit one of us itís a lucky shot. The Vietnamese were crack shots. They did the job. So the cultures of their dead, their burial places. I, I learned to a lot. So we would walk through these villages. I would do the right prayers, I would do the right moves. I would never step on their graves. I would honor the food they put out for their dead. Uh, the jopsticks, which were the prayer sticks of the Buddhist religion. I would buy some a place emí on their ancestors graves. Stuff like that. Um, we were a four man team. When you only got four men in your team and your out in the middle of that jungle, you donít run around beating on your chest ripping out chest hair. You need to get along with the natives. And my team got along. My team name was Pitbull cause I was Pitbull.