Recently I spotted a letter to the editor in our Signal Newspaper by Jerry Schlund and lo and behold he signed off reporting that he too had been with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. I promptly contacted him and we met in his Valencia home where we swapped war stories and he shared with me his vast collection of outstanding memorabilia.
Jerry was born August 27, 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio, and at age 10 his family moved to North Hollywood, California, where he grew up and graduated from Notre Dame High School in June 1959. After high school, Jerry attended Valley Institute of Technology studying electronics and he became part owner of Allied Amusement Corp., a carnival and casino equipment rental business that provided services to the motion picture industry and other entertainment and charity endeavors. Jerry was a roulette and crap dealer for charity events. He joined the California Army National Guard, October 25, 1965, a six year commitment during which time he became the company bugler. Jerry’s Basic Training at Fort Ord, California, was completed in November 1966 and he joined the Los Angeles Police Department graduating from LAPD’s Academy January 26, 1968. Jerry’s first assignment was patrolling out of the North Hollywood Division.
Search and Destroy
As the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam heated up beginning February 1968, Jerry was activated into the U.S. Army May 15, 1968, and was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for one year. Jerry was promoted to Sergeant E-5 and assigned track commander with the 1st/18th Armored Cavalry, 40th Armored Division. In April 1969, Jerry spotted his name on a list of the very last unit of soldiers being deployed to the Republic of South Vietnam. Soon, Jerry was assigned squad leader with the 3rd/39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta and began search and destroy missions. Their mission was to locate and eradicate Viet Cong insurgents who were wreaking havoc with the general population by stealing their products and forcing youngsters to become VC guerrilla fighters. For Jerry’s unit, the Mekong Delta was a hot bed of hostile action against a determined enemy force in harsh terrain and extreme climate conditions.
Barely two months in-county, on a pitch dark night of May 28, 1969, Jerry’s platoon encountered a sizable Viet Cong force resulting in a close-quarter firefight which cost his platoon two soldiers killed in action and seven others wounded including Jerry. As darkness fell that night, Jerry’s Platoon Leader had ordered his men to set up a defensive perimeter in a rice paddy near a tree line. He directed Jerry to hold a position near the trees, but as Jerry approached that position, two other soldiers had it covered, so he took a position nearby for the night. It wasn’t long before all hell broke loose. The enemy was so close that Jerry could hear them yelling and shouting as AK47 bullets and tracers were hitting all around him. Jerry said, “This was the first near death situation he had ever experienced”. In pitch darkness, Jerry could hear his fellow soldiers moaning in pain when suddenly he took a round to his right thigh and began bleeding profusely. Jerry feebly bandaged himself but had to keep fighting thinking that they would get overrun any minute…..it was sheer chaos. Finally, as quickly as that fire fight began, it was over with gunships clearing the area and the VC abruptly cleared out. Rather unsettling, Jerry learned later that the two soldiers killed were the ones who had taken the position that Jerry was initially told to hold. The next thing Jerry knew, a Med-evac Huey Helicopter landed to retrieve the wounded and dead soldiers. He was hustled to the chopper and literally hurled on top of his fellow wounded and dead soldiers. It will be forever etched in Jerry’s mind the sight of one of his wounded men being carried on a stretcher, bleeding profusely from his lower body area. Sadly, that good soldier’s life expired that terrifying night.
Protecting and Serving
Jerry was sent to a field hospital in Japan for three days and then he was moved to a US Army Hospital for three months in Okinawa, Japan, for recovery and physical therapy. At Okinawa, Jerry’s bed was located adjacent to the “Amputee Ward” and he’ll never forget hearing one brave soldier who lost his legs and one arm say, “My wife and I had just had a baby boy born and I am looking forward to a contest to see who walks first”. After Jerry recovered, he returned to the US mainland through Travis Air Force Base and the Los Angeles Airport, where one patriotic lady handed him a small medallion that read “Welcome Home – Your Country is Grateful”. He was assigned to Fort MacArthur where he was Honorably Discharged, October 25, 1971. Jerry’s awards include Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal w/V Device, Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm, Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Medal, and Presidential Unit Citation. Jerry soon returned to LAPD’s North Hollywood Division where he resumed protecting and serving the San Fernando Valley citizens. In early 1971 Jerry became a motorcycle officer working primarily in the Van Nuys area until he retired February 1997 as a Senior Lead Officer. Being a devout Catholic, one of Jerry’s very best LAPD assignments was escorting Pope John Paul II, which afforded him the opportunity to kiss the Pope’s ring. This was indeed a memorable and proud moment for Jerry. Jerry spent 24 years, 1985 to 2009, as a traffic instructor at College of the Canyons.
Immense Stomach Butterflies
Jerry attended College of the Canyons earning an Associate in Science Degree in “Administration of Justice” in 1980. Arranged by a mutual friend, Jerry met Frances Johnson in April 1986 on a blind lunch date at Copper Penny Restaurant in Van Nuys. Both divorced, and leading up to that lunch date, Jerry suffered an immense bout of stomach butterflies; it was as though he had been transported back to his adolescent years. That was the beginning of a long love affair resulting in marriage on August 15, 1992, at St. Bernands Catholic Church in Volcano, California. Between the two of them, they are proud parents of 5 sons. Dan Schlund is a paramedic, stuntman and pyrotechnician. Steve and Jerry Schlund are Correctional Officers with the California Department of Corrections in Malibu and San Luis Obispo. Colonel Paul Johnson is Commander of the 71st Operations Group at Vance Air Force Base. And last but not least, Naval Commander Brian Johnson is Department Head of Strike Fighter Squadron 101 at Eglin Air Force Base. Jerry and Frances also have five wonderful grandchildren.