A Jewish Veteran’s Story:
Celebrating Those Who Served

By Marshall Sapperstein 

Marshall Sapperstein gaduation photo Ft Benning GA June 1968

I must admit I surprised myself at my ready acceptance to do this article. I have not been one to talk about my time in the Army, except with those who shared some of the same experiences. I think I am not alone in those feelings. 

Both of my brothers had served in the military. Serving our country was a family tradition. During the winter break of my senior year of college, I enlisted in the Army. My report date was delayed until after I graduated from the University of Maryland at the beginning of June 1967. By the end of June, I was in the Army! 

I was sent to Ft. Dix, NJ for my Basic and Advanced Infantry Training courses. In November 1967, I reported to Infantry Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, GA. Our class started with 250 candidates. 

There was one other Jewish Officer Candidate in the class. When the class graduated, there were only 120 men remaining. Ironically, our graduation date of June 3, 1968 was one year to the day after my graduation in College Park.   

When I enlisted, I requested Military Intelligence branch. I was very happy to find my request was fulfilled. I received my commission as a 2LT in the Military Intelligence branch of the Army. 

From Ft. Benning, I was sent to the Army Intelligence School at Ft. Holabird here in Baltimore. After the grueling previous year, it was a treat for me to be able to spend some time in my hometown. It was also interesting to be able to expose my comrades to the benefits of being in Baltimore.  

Eileen & Marshall Sapperstein

I know that a few engagements and marriages occurred in our ranks. I was able to assist a few of the fellas in purchasing engagement rings at David’s Jewelers in Pikesville. Most of those marriages are still intact over 50 years later! 


From Ft. Holabird, I was shipped to the Republic of Vietnam late in 1968. I was assigned to the 55th Military Intelligence Detachment. This unit was based in Nha Trang, a coastal city on the South China Sea. Prior to the war, the beach at Nha Trang had been referred to as “the Riviera of the Orient.”  

The 55th MID was responsible for providing Intelligence support to combat units throughout II Corps, which was the central region of the country from north to south. The countryside was beautiful — stretching from the South China Sea coast to the mountains of the Central Highlands and the border with Cambodia.   

I grew to respect most of the Vietnamese people I met. They, like us, just wanted to live their lives in peace. 

During the first half of my one-year tour, I was responsible for combat interrogation teams my Detachment had assigned to work with the infantry units stationed throughout II Corps. These teams did the preliminary screening of prisoners of war and suspects encountered by the infantry units.  

Those who were determined to be enemy combatants were sent on for further interrogation. Those who appeared to be civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time were released. Information gathered was shared with the local military units as well as being reported to higher headquarters.   

Typically, I would spend about 10 days to two weeks with a team of interrogators. Then I would return to Nha Trang for a few days. After that, it was back to the field with another team, on a rotating basis. 

During the last part of my tour, I was assigned to the G-2 staff for IFFV (First Field Force Vietnam).  IFFV was the major headquarters for all U.S. forces in II Corps. It was also based in Nha Trang. Here, I spent most of my time as part of a team responsible for updating the Order of Battle information on enemy forces in our area.  

This was before computers were used to analyze information coming in from the field and covert sources. Everything was done manually. The information we compiled was then disseminated down to units in the field, as well as up the chain of command. 

During my tour, I met a few fellow soldiers from Maryland. I also encountered few fellow Jews. One was from Baltimore and the other from Pittsburgh.  With so few Jewish soldiers, there were no special accommodations for services or holiday celebrations. But we managed to celebrate in our own way. 

Toward the end of my tour, I was able to take five days leave in Hong Kong. It was a trip I never expected to experience. Then, with three weeks remaining, I took one week R&R to Australia. These trips provided a broader perspective beyond the war in Vietnam and also provided a badly needed respite. 

When I returned to the U.S., my family and friends gave me a warm welcome. This made a big difference for me compared with the experiences of many of my comrades. When I was confronted by those opposed to the war, I was able to ignore their ignorant comments equating the policies of our government with the individual soldiers honorably serving our country.   

I spent the remaining months of my time in the service as an instructor at Ft. Holabird. I know I was fortunate to have survived and to have returned home uninjured.   

The experience gave me an opportunity to mature, to learn to handle major responsibilities, to overcome challenges that life presents, and to appreciate the benefits we have in America, and not to take our freedom for granted. I also made many new enduring friendships for which I am grateful.   

Celebrating Veterans Today 

I am proud to have served my country. There were many factors which went into my choice to join the Army. One major influence was a desire to show that Jews continue to participate in preserving the freedoms that make the United States of America unique in the history of the world. 

As I have gotten older, I recognize it is important to share my military experience with younger generations. I know the lessons I learned during my time in the Army have served me well throughout my life. Just as they have in Israel, I believe that a period of national service for all young Americans would be beneficial for them and our country.   

Although the idea of a Veterans Day program originated with Gail Zuskin, it appealed to me as a way to celebrate the veterans who are members of The Myerberg Center. Whereas Memorial Day is set aside to remember those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice during service to the country, as well as those who served and have passed away; Veterans Day should be a day to celebrate those who answered the call, survived the travails and are still alive. 

Since its inception the Veterans Day program at The Myerberg has grown to become a community event. Join the celebration on November 8, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. at the Myerberg Center. This event is free and open to all. Registration is required. Learn more and register.

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