Friday, May 18, 2012
When I finally made it out of college it was 1966 and Vietnam was a dark shadow growing larger every day. I was young and thought I was bulletproof. My friend Jimmy and I decided we were true-blue American patriots and would serve our country by joining the Air Force and becoming fighter pilots. We would strut off to war, rule the air, collect medals, fend off adoring females and live a fantasy bachelor life.
Instead, we both got married, Jimmy died in a plane crash during pilot training and I wound up going to Vietnam to serve with a "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter rescue squadron that picked up pilots who had been shot down. That's how you get slam-dunked into being an adult.
I'd like to think I'd forgotten most of those 368 days of my life in Vietnam but somehow they float around in my subconscious. I made this piece early on in my reincarnation as an artist and never really thought too deeply about why I did it the way I did. But you Blog Readers keep emailing me that you like my stories so Susan tells me I have to dig a little deeper.
The figure does look like me; I wasn't free to leave Vietnam until the Air Force said I could; when I came back from Vietnam it was to a country that didn't like what I did so I kept quiet about it; and I tried to forget being there. My dog-tag, tucked into the wire around the figure, includes my blood type.
Today people tell me I'm a very "grounded" person. Maybe that slam-dunk in my 20's, followed by 32 years of having a corporate foot on the back of my neck made me "grounded". All I know is that making art makes me feel like I'm floating, light as a butterfly, all the time now.