Chuck and Amy Spielman both grew up on Long Island, New York, but did not meet until they were in their 20s. Both had completed college, and Amy was employed as a civil-rights and political researcher while Chuck was working and going to night school to earn his MBA in 1967. He realized that the war in Vietnam was expanding and the draft was claiming many of the young men in his area. The day he received his diploma from graduate school, he also got his draft notice. He enlisted, completed basic training, and he and Amy were married on April 20, 1968, between basic training and advanced infantry training. The couple moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, and Amy lived in an apartment while Chuck completed Officer Candidate School (OCS), even though OCS incurred an additional year commitment. Chuck remembers the focus in OCS, where the instructors kept reminding the students that “if you don’t remember this, you’ll die in Vietnam.” His initial assignment was as a Personnel Officer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and their first home was a trailer. Chuck was tasked to interview officers returning from Vietnam and based on what he learned, he determined that he wanted to be assigned to MAC-V (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) as an advisor, rather than being a Platoon Leader. At Bragg, Chuck and Amy immersed themselves in the Army life and really enjoyed the military community, even with the prospect of a deployment to Vietnam in the future. He was selected to be an advisor and took a course in Vietnamese, noting that when he arrived in country, those he worked with spoke a mix of Vietnamese, French, and English. When Chuck deployed to Vietnam, Amy returned home, working full time and attending grad school. When Chuck landed in Tan Son Nhut airport, his first thought was, “What’s a nice Jewish boy from New York doing in a place like this, anyway?” He then learned that his assignment was to be a financial auditor in the Mekong Delta, to make sure the Army’s money was being spent properly. Although he was assigned to the Headquarters of Advisory Team 96, he spent the majority of his time visiting different camps. While traveling around the countryside, he interacted with many Vietnamese and found them to be very positive people, but came to understand that they were working on their timeline, which was easier to comprehend once he understood their culture. During the Cambodian incursion, Chuck had to assess reports on the effectiveness of Arc Light strikes, and during this secret mission, his mail home was held up, causing stress on Amy back in New York. When Chuck returned from Vietnam, he got out of the Army and took a job working for Amy’s father in the real estate business. In 2008, Chuck started a private museum in San Diego, California, the “Hall of Heroes,” to tell the story about service to a younger generation.
In this interview, Chuck and Amy intertwine their stories and talk about their childhood, attending college and graduate school, service in the military, and family life on the home front. Chuck describes his service in Vietnam while Amy reflects on her concern for her husband and the lack of information flow from overseas. Recently, they were able to revisit Vietnam together, and they discuss the sense of closure it provided, especially when Chuck was able to return a Vietnamese flag to a North Vietnamese Veteran. Finally, they reflect on what service means to their family, and how the Hall of Heroes is very fulfilling, giving Chuck a sense of purpose while Amy notes that community service has always been a priority.