Marvin Apsel was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After being drafted and completing training, he served in the First Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam from December 1968 to December 1969. He returned to New York City and went to college at Long Island University (LIU) on the GI Bill. Mr. Apsel began his career as a schoolteacher in the New York City public school system, before going back to school for physical therapy at New York University (NYU). After working as a physical therapist at NYU's Rusk Institute, he spent the rest of his career at Bayonne Medical Center as a program director and high-level administrator. He and his wife raised their two children in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Edison, New Jersey. The Apsels are members of Temple Emanu-El in Edison.
In Oral History Session #1, Mr. Apsel describes his family's history and his own upbringing in Borough Park, Brooklyn. He recounts his family's traditions and customs observing Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, along with his experiences in the military having to do with anti-Semitism and religious practice and celebration. He traces the time in basic training and advanced training, the first days and months in an infantry platoon in Vietnam, and the R&R trip he took to Thailand. Wounded several times in Vietnam, Mr. Apsel recounts receiving the Purple Heart. He discusses the support he received from the government after his service in Vietnam and how his service and experiences in Vietnam influenced his decision to work in the rehabilitation and health care profession. He contrasts his beliefs at the time about American involvement in the Vietnam War with what he has read and studied later. Additionally, he discusses women in the service, Red Cross volunteers and Women's Army Corps personnel, during the Vietnam War era.
In Oral History Session #2, Mr. Apsel discusses growing up and going to public schools in Brooklyn. He recalls the inculcation that his generation received in the 1950s and early 1960s about patriotism and service to their country. After graduating from New Utrecht High School in 1965, he worked part time and went to Brooklyn College part time. In the interview, he contrasts his time at Brooklyn College to his studies later at LIU, after he had served in Vietnam and was going to college on the GI Bill. After being drafted in 1968, he discusses the family's debate over his options. During the induction process, he describes how Marines were recruited. He went through basic training at Fort Gordon, advanced training at Fort Jackson, and then Non-Commissioned Officer School at Fort Benning. In 1969, he served in Vietnam as a squad and platoon leader in the region around Cu Chi and Dau Tieng in what American forces designated III Corps. He relates missions undertaken by his unit, including some joint missions with ARVN forces, that took place on the Michelin Rubber Plantation, around the Tunnels of Cu Chi, and near the Cambodian border. His unit also partook in MEDCAP missions to provide medical care for civilians.
In Oral History Session #3, Mr. Apsel starts off by recalling the incident in Vietnam that led to him receiving the Bronze Star. He talks about various facets of his service in the Vietnam War, including interactions with civilians and ARVN troops, patrols and combat situations, experiences in an infantry platoon, communications with home, and friends and members of his unit who became casualties of war. He discusses the transition back to civilian life, treatment of Vietnam veterans, and situations that trigger feelings of trauma endured in Vietnam.
In Oral History Session #4, Mr. Apsel recounts his last weeks in Vietnam before coming home and his decision not to stay in the military, in spite of a lucrative reenlistment bonus that was offered. He describes his homecoming, first visiting relatives in California and then returning to Brooklyn. Within two weeks, he had enrolled in LIU to complete his undergraduate degree in physical education. His first job happened to be at P.S. 164, the same school he had attended as a child. After completing a program in physical therapy at NYU, he began his career as a physical therapist at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine and recalls memories of his time at the groundbreaking institute. At Bayonne Medical Center, he served in a number of positions, including Physical Therapy Director; Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy Director; Assistant Vice President of Rehabilitation; Senior Vice President of Hospital Services; and Chief Operating Officer. He discusses the hospital's response on and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In addition, he analyzes the recent trend of private hospitals being absorbed by networks of healthcare providers. Mr. Apsel, along with his wife, highlight memories of raising of their family and tell stories about their two children and four grandchildren.