By Gillan Spitz
The Vietnam War lasted for many years, creating a divide between North and South Vietnam. Three million people lost their lives during the Vietnam War (History.com Editors, 2009). The Vietnam War divided American in half. Many Americans believed it was immoral for the United States to get involved. Others thought the United States was right to join the war. However, the war went on, and the public support halted. Vietnam soldiers returning from war faced with an America that did not support them. Veterans of Vietnam still deal with the pain of fighting every day. Veterans continue to deal with how America treated them when they returned. Many veterans will not discuss the atrocities that happened during the war. The life of Jerold Spitz in 1966 would change, and he got sent 8,305 miles across the world to Vietnam.
Spitz was born on February 2nd, 1945. His childhood was like anyone else’s childhood until 1960. In 1960, by the age of 15, Spitz lost both of his parents to cancer. At the age of 15, Spitz lived with his sister, her husband, and their ten children. In 1966, he went to Vietnam to fight.
At the age of 20, Spitz was a typical American man. He had dreams of celebrating his 21st birthday. However, when that day came, Spitz found himself in the humid jungles of Vietnam fighting for his life and others. The Vietnam jungles were lush but deadly. Inside the jungles hid bombs and unimaginable terrors. In 1966, Spitz enlisted in the military to do good for his country. Once deployed, Spitz arrived during the late hours of the night in Vietnam. The loud booms of rockets fired off and echoed in the night. All the men on the plane were unsettled, arriving in the Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Once the aircrafts landed, Spitz and the other men rushed to trucks and moved to Tent City A. Tent City A was where troops would stay to begin their ti in Vietnam, and live to see Tent City B. However, Spitz knew that he had a long battle before he would ever see Tent City B. Spitz knew Tent City B was a far off dream. After a restless night of sleep, Spitz awoke to the sound of “Hello Vietnam,” echoing through speakers of Tent City A. Spitz had known a friend, Ackley, that had been serving in Vietnam, and knew it was a longshot that he would be there. To Spitz’s surprise, when he asked his sergeant about Ackley’s address, the sergeant knew of Ackley, and the missions he had endured. His sergeant appointed a corporal to escort Spitz to Ackley. When Spitz walked in, Ackley stood in awe to see his childhood friend in Vietnam. The two chatted while they could, but separated the next day. The day after his arrival, Spitz was sent away to another part of Vietnam with three other men. Spitz got sent into the cities of Vietnam. In the city, anyone could be in disguise.
The environment of Vietnam changed from day to night. During the day in Vietnam, no one could tell whom to trust and who not to trust. The Viet Cong disguised themselves well, and they were everywhere. From children to women, the Viet Cong did not know any limits on age or gender. During the night, the citizens of Vietnam became monsters. Everyone became murders during the night. A young boy used to give out newspapers to the soldiers had been bribed by the Viet Cong. Soldiers would tip the young boy well for his service of providing newspaper to them. Soldiers enjoyed reading the newspaper to keep up on current events from across the sea. However, The Viet Cong bribed him with more money than the men could afford to offer him. The boy dropped a grenade in the middle of the line of soldiers waiting to get their paper. After he let the weapon loose, he took off into the crowds that formed. The boy disappeared into the dust and chaos.
The war for Spitz was a blur. At the end of 1966, Spitz arrived at Tent City B. Spitz had survived, although scarred from the atrocities that he witnessed at only 20 years old. Spitz was met at Tent City B by Ackley. The two reconciled and discussed how grateful they were to be going home. However, that night, Viet Cong attacked at Tent City B. Many soldiers died during this attack, including a young boy who had earlier argued with his sergeant about cutting his hair. After the attacks, the men boarded onto planes out of Vietnam. When the aircraft had reached an altitude where they could no longer be shot down, the captain announced it to the soldiers on the plane. The plane exploded with relief and excitement from the soldiers. Finally, the long flight from Vietnam to Chicago had landed, Spitz chose to celebrate his arrival home with a drink at a local Chicago bar. Spitz was met by a hostile bartender who refused to serve him because of his uniform. On the plane, however, a stewardess continued to serve him drinks until he passed out. When Spitz awoke, he had missed his connecting flight to Lansing, Michigan. Faced with the fact that he had missed his flight home, Spitz decided to take a bus from Chicago, Illinois, to Jackson, Michigan. From Jackson, Spitz hitchhiked to Lansing. The kind people who had picked him up dropped him off on Pennsylvania Avenue. From there, Spitz walked all the way home to his sister’s house. When Spitz arrived home, he and his sister shared hugs. While Spitz was in Vietnam, his sister had tried to send him mail. To their surprise, the letters had always sent back.
Spitz’s family was not sure what to make of the mail sent back and were concerned. When Spitz arrived back, it felt as though no time had passed at all.
When Spitz arrived back to Lansing, he still had nine months of service in the military. He chose a base closest to his home, which was Chicago, but assigned to a prison in Kansas. While in Kansas, he met Laura Harris. Harris and Spitz fell in love and soon married. Once married, the two moved back to Lansing and started their family together. His children grew up knowing that Spitz had served in Vietnam, but no more than that. His children could tell he was affected.
The Vietnam War had lasting effects for all involved. Veterans of Vietnam endured suffering during the unimaginable war. Veterans put their lives on the line, and when they returned endured horrible treatment from those who opposed the war. Though people had differing views on the Vietnam War, veterans had tried to protect innocent people from losing their lives. Veterans deserve respect.
Spitz, Jerold. Personal interview. 26 October 2019.
History.com Editors. “Vietnam War.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009, https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/vietnam-war-history.