The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, 2LT Jerry A. Novakovich, who died in the service of his country on February 9th, 1968 in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. The cause of death was listed as Small Arms/AW. At the time of his death Jerry was 22 years of age. He was from Concord, California. Jerry is honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel 38E, Line 57.
The decorations earned by 2LT Jerry A. Novakovich include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star with V, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.
Like most American soldiers (yet unlike the media and Hollywood ongoing slanders), Jerry was a fantastic young man, would have had a great future, became a patriotic American, and died a heroic soldier.
I'd known Jerry since he and his wonderful parents moved to Clayton in the 7th grade. We became best friends, playing, doing homework, sports, working on cars, double dating and everything else together. However Jerry was so well liked and respected, that he had many "best friends" in whatever he did. As an only child, he did not have to serve in the military and with the controversy of the protesters in 1967, I'm sure he was tempted not to serve. But with 3 years of college behind him and feeling he should do his part, he enlisted, went to OCS, and served stateside at Fort Jackson, South Carolina for 6 months. With orders for Vietnam, he then was assigned as a 2nd Lt. Platoon Leader in the 4th Infantry Division.
Jerry's letters to his parents were comforting by downplaying the combat, but his dailey journal laid out more graphically his experiences with ambushes, humping through the jungles, convoys his love for his men, the loss in combat of his fellow soldiers, and his appreciation for the mission we were trying to accomplish for the Vietnamese people.
Jerry wrote to ask that pen-pal letters be written to the young men in his platoon by college girls. He wrote of the beauty of Vietnam, of Monsoon rains and "C" rations, of their helping and medically treating the villagers, of hot and cold LZ's, of the deaths of fellow Lieutenants Burback, Sandifur and Spencer Powers, and of how he must remain strong for the sake of his men.
His dedication shows again in his last journal entry the day before he was killed. "Today is our 30th consecutive in the field. I'm almost ready to go in for a few days. The only reason I want to go in is because of tomorrow (his 22nd birthday), but guess that isn't too important so I would like to wait a few more days."
The next day's operation we know about from Jerry's Bronze Star citation. His unit was patrolling in dense jungle west of Hoi An when a large NVA force hit them with recoiless rifle, mortar and automatic weapons fire. Jerry deployed his men in a defensive perimeter then during the battle made repeated trips under fire outside the perimeter to bring in his exposed and wounded men. Finally on one such trip Jerry himself was also killed.
A letter from Jerry's Company Commander also praised him. "Jerry was an outstanding officer and gentleman. He was well liked and highly respected by his fellow officers as well as the men with whom he served. Jerry served in a manner which brought only honor to himself, his family and to the United States Army."
he loss of our Jerry, for his family, friends and loved ones will always be missed. The bright future he could have had with his happy zest for life, a loving wife, children and grandchildren for Bill & Phyllis, and a successful career, is a sacrifice and tragic loss that can never be filled.
While Jerry and the 58,000 other American soldiers that died in Vietnam were faithful to our country, our country was not faithful to them. Being stabbed in the back by protestors, the Media and Congress, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were lost in a 1975 invasion, 2 years after our soldiers were withdrawn.
What Jerry and the 2.6 million Americans that served had sacrificed for, was abandoned. The aftermath of communist tyranny, the Khmer Rouge slaughter of 2 million citizens, and millions of fleeing "Boat People", has proven that the cause that Jerry gave his life for was just. and history will also show that stopping the communist advance until 1975, was an instrumental part in the Free World's eventual winning of the 45 year "Cold War" with the Soviet Union collapsing in 1990.
Now with the hindsight of history most Americans give long overdue respect to Vietnam veterans. Eventually Vietnam will also be free, and the Vietnamese people will also erect statues to the American soldiers who tried to give them freedom. When they do, it will be brave and worthy men like Jerry Novakovich, that they will have in mind to honor.
An only child, he didn't have to serve, and his wonderful parents never got over the loss yet helped more than 40 other kids as 'parents'. His Dad died about 2000, Mom's in a rest home about to go, but Jerry's memory lives on in his friends, and our Clayton VFW Post named after him, The Lt. Jerry Novakovich VFW Post #1525
By friend, Pete Laurence - Vietnam Green Beret 66/67