By his own admission, former Marine and Vietnam vet Mark Spooner was a bit tough on his daughter Jennifer as she was growing up.  In fact, he described his attitude in words that are best left to the imagination.

It wasn’t until Jennifer herself joined the Marine Corps, did a tour in Iraq, that she finally understood where parts of his personality were forged and gained a tremendous respect for his sacrifices, both for her, the entire Spooner family, and the United States.  On a beach walk in Japan years after Jennifer was grown she told him, “Now that I think about it, really understanding the things you dealt with, you did actually did much better than I would have expected.”

The Spooners, father and daughter, will have a chance to deepen that bond when the Visionalist crew returns with them to Vietnam in February/March.  The trip will allow them to explore the length and breadth of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Hue, and visit most of the key sites that made up Spooner’s tour of duty, including Hills 41 and 37 during the TET offensive and countless firefights in the Vietnam countryside.

This reunion and return will form the emotional backdrop to Our Vietnam Generation, set to air in December 2010.  It will also serve as visual context for the innumerable stories and reminiscences which we’re in process of gathering from Michigan’s Vietnam vets.
Spooner’s story is somewhat typical of young Detroiters  in the mid-Sixties.  Having graduated high school in 1966, he attended a semester of college, then received his draft notice. 

“I knew I was going to Vietnam,” Spooner says.  “I wanted the best training I could get, so I joined the Corps.”

He shipped out in November of 1967, and was classified as an Infantry Forward Observer, an FO for 81 mm mortars.  During his thirteen months in country, he saw many of the most horrendous, historical battles; certainly his tour encompassed some of the most important turning points in the war, both militarily and at home, where opposition to American volume in Vietnam was reaching a crescendo.

His most horrific experiences will be related during his return to Vietnam, at the site where they happened, but in doing a pre-interview we couldn’t resist asking for a couple of tight situations he found himself in, and we certainly got what we asked for.  He describes facing down the Vietcong equivalent of suicide bombers, ‘kamikaze’ soldiers who went by the name of ‘zappers’.  Their job, apparently, on the night of Spooner’s encounter was to blow themselves up as a means of penetrating barbed wire perimeters to allow the others through.  Spooner relates that he and his fellow soldiers watched with incredulity as hit zappers refused to go down, and how wounded zappers would howl with laughter.  It wasn’t until later that he found out that they were heavily intoxicated with a

cocaine-like drug that made them nearly impervious to pain.
He tells of his first firefight, when his M-16 jammed after the second round; he admits that on the first air strike he called in as an FO, he gave coordinates too close and could feel the subsequent shrapnel whizzing by his ears.

We anticipate a sobering, honest and often painful story of Vietnam from Spooner, and an equally poignant journey with his daughter to a land where so many men did not return.


Contact Us