Born: Flushing, New York, 1949 Served in Vietnam, U.S. Army Army, Delta Company, 5th Battalion 1 12th Infantry, 99th Light Infantry Brigade 1969
From the Artist:
Art is communication! If the viewer sees what I see, feels what I feel and is touched as I am then we have communicated and thus we have art.
On August 2, 1969, in the heavy jungles of central Vietnam at approximately 6 a.m., our platoon was ambushed by Vietcong. My position was closest to what later turned out to be a Vietcong base camp and training center so we were hit hard. When the dust had settled and the smoke cleared I had taken 7 hits and was in critical condition. It was then that I began to see a bright light and I watched everyone running around in a chaotic frenzy. A few clicks away was a clearing where medevac choppers could land and would meet us. The platoon reorganized and set up a perimeter as my "blood brothers" carried me out of the jungle and I was dusted off. Twenty-five years later on Christmas, we were all reunited by a tele-conference call between New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. We now meet once a year for a three-day weekend and try to understand what happened to our youth. We talk, we laugh, we cry, but most of all, we question "WHY?"
Words cannot explain the effect this experience has had on me or the emotions and feelings I have toward these men, so I painted a picture. Here is a thousand words.
I am the father of 7 children and a native Long Islander where I remain today. As with most Vietnam Veterans, I have suppressed my thoughts about my experiences and only recently have I felt the need to share them. As I look back, I realize the phenomenon of my story and my fellow veterans and our rightful place in history. Now after more than 30 years, the truth about our story emerged as an ongoing saga still unfolding and will continue to unfold until the last one of us has passed on.
As a youth growing up in Bay Shore, New York, a seaside community of about 25,000 people, my childhood was full of beach parties, swimming, fishing and nothing but fun until Vietnam. Shortly after graduation, I went to Vietnam and when I returned, nothing was the same. On my return, I spent a year in physical rehabilitation and many more years in psychotherapy as I tried to put my life on track.
My first post-military experience, connected to the military, came at a job interview with the Long Island Railroad. It was them who first informed me at a pre-employment physical that I had bullet lodged in my lower spine. I had been honorably discharged without notification for obvious reasons, accountability. At that point I realized the Government, being true to form, showed me its true colors towards Vietnam Veterans. A feeling I carry still today. The political climate being what it was at the time, I had little recourse except to quietly get on with my life and do the best I could. Obviously I lost the job. Stories like these have vollowed the Vietnam Veterans their entire lives and only now are people starting to listen. Our unassuming, independent natures has not only gotten us through the last 30 years, but has stifled our progress as a whole. By allowing ourselves to be manipulated, we have lost the benefit of our most valuable resource, our minds, not to mention 58,000 good men and women. I wonder how many research doctors or Nobel Peace Prize winners were in that count?
At age 40, those questions began to eat at me to the point of explosion, so I began to express myself through art. After all, no one would listen, or so I was conditioned to believe, after being ignored for so many years. As the phenomenon of our artwork has spontaneously surfaced as a critically acclaimed fine arts movement, my involvement began to increase. I not only became a member of the National Vietnam Veterans Art Group, I became a representative in the New York area. After many years of suppressing thoughts of my experiences, I have emerged as a educator of one of our nation's most turbulent times. I have evolved not ony as an eyewitness to this historical time, but a student of Vietnam artwork and art therapy and its uses. I now do lectures, seminars and art exhibits at schools and colleges in the New Yor area. From being spit on by protesters to educating their children in 30 short years, I add to the phenomenon.
In the year 2000, I coordinated an international art exhibit on a world tour from Australia. The critically acclaimed "Touched by Fire," the Australian experience in Vietnam was touring the United States and I managed a five-week NYC metro leg of the tour. I hosted 14 Australian Vietnam Veterans, supplying exhibit sites, transportation, room and board. It was quite an experience. I found their welcome home similar to ours, there was none. As a result of my efforts, I was honored in Washington, D.C. by their embassy and received accolades by everyone from the Mayor to two Congressmen. I brought this exibit to school chilren and finally to our very own museum for a three-week showing. What I found most fascinating was a simultaneously therapeutic creation of art by both of us. As I was painting in Bay Shore, New York, Derek Walsh (an Australian artist) was painting around the world in Australia. The subject: Vietnam.
I paint, lecture, and get involved, not fully understanding "Why?" I am compelled, however, to let future generations know, we were here, we did exist and we gave of ourselves simply because we were asked.