Below are some small sketches in remembrance of Memorial Day. They are a small expression of respect for the guys who have paid such an awful price to procure and preserve our freedoms. Stylistically, they owe much to Bill Mauldin, long time cartoonist for stars and stripes and political cartoonist for other newspapers in civilian life. He was my hero when I discovered his book, “Up front” in fifth grade.
I once saw a film about combat artists in WW II. They had wild stories, but the funniest was from a Marine who said being a combat artist in the Corps was not easy. The only real advantage over his fellow Marines was that when he went over the side and down the cargo netting into a landing craft he was not only carrying the standard kit and rifle, weighing about seventy pounds, but he was also honored with the opportunity to carry his “art gear” consisting of an “easel, paint box and bottles of turpentine.” Made a fellow wanna’ join up. Imagine hitting the Pacific beaches, under fire, with all that stuff strapped onto your pack. Forget the art stuff, just imagine hitting the beach with anything strapped to your back.
I don’t recall him saying he had any time to draw or paint. At least, not for a while.
Marines…whatta’ you gonna’ do?
What a price our vets paid and what a debt we owe them.
The drawings below don’t depict any particular story, but are meant to convey the general boredom and grime these guys endured while displaying friendliness, attention to duty and honor. Just regular boys from farms, ranches, reservations, small towns and big cities. Some of them perhaps like U.S. Grant, who couldn’t run a hardware store in civilian life, but did the job under enemy fire.
My Dad, uncle and their first cousin (whose little brother didn’t come back) would always sit around and talk about things they witnessed growing up and during WW II. They never talked about the horror. They only told stories about the goofball officers they sometimes served under. Their pals’ misadventures, getting into messes and how strange the places were they visited. (Apparently, there were places in Europe and the Pacific which were not remotely similar to farm life in Jennings and Ripley County, Indiana.) They also told stories with embedded life-lessons. My dad once explained everything a person needs to know about race relations (which began to be healed in the military in WW II). He didn’t tell me what to think, but just recounted a conversation among sergeants around a pot-bellied stove in an army barracks one cold night in Japan. After the story I understood.
And that Marine combat artist was being interviewed in his seventies. He was still painting and having a ball. He survived. He probably shucked his easel and paints on the sand and focused on his skills with his M-1 Garand. It’s like drawing stuff in courtrooms. You have to sometimes pay close attention to things around you. You can always fill in the dull interludes with your drawing pad and pen later…when nobody is yelling at you…or overruling your objections…or rolling their eyes at your arguments…or shooting at you.
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