Post 829: HERO ~~ more than a sandwich…

In the mode of the day, just about anyone is a hero, no matter what. You might be one by someone’s definition. Or so might I. A heavy hitter in baseball might be called a hero. Someone highly admired for good works in the community might be called a hero. Entire classes of people — soldiers, policemen, teachers, parents — might be called heroes. It seems we live in an age of heroes. Just as all children are special these days, so is everyone a hero.

Yet, “hero” has a specific meaning: 

A hero (masculine or gender-neutral) or heroine (feminine) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs) is a person or character who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage, bravery or self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good; a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Historically, the first heroes displayed courage or excellence as warriors. The word’s meaning was later extended to include moral excellence.

So says the Wikipedia entry for “hero”.

jeep wreck

When I was in the US Army in Germany, I rolled this Jeep while returning from a photo shoot. I was absolved of responsibility (ultimately) but the accident was a perfect storm of poor vehicle design, inexperienced driver, and road conditions.

This particular model Jeep was notorious for tipping over. We had a trailer attached to carry our field gear, which further destabilized the Jeep and was my first time driving with a trailer. We ran into road construction and an international road sign I recognized too late to mean “merge left”. I merged into a German Ford. 

I had a passenger with me. Somehow, when I rolled that Jeep onto its top, the gasoline cap came off the gas tank. On a military Jeep, the gas tank is under the driver’s seat…! I was doused in gasoline. I don’t remember if my passenger was, too. With all that gasoline leaked over the Jeep and me, a spark would have toasted us both regardless. Germans gathered at the side of the Autobahn to take in the accident, curious for blood I suppose. Some were smoking cigarettes a short distance from me, this guy reeking of gasoline!

It is a well-known phenomenon that even brave and heroic soldiers occasionally crap themselves in those combat circumstances that define them as brave and heroic…. My passenger and I can’t even claim that, yet I remember us being proclaimed heroes for surviving this accident. What a crock! We were just darn lucky. Heroism had nothing to do with it.


Post 577: old letters

I found some old letters I wrote home when I was in the US Army (December 2, 1969-November 30, 1972). I was looking for old photos I thought I had, but found this pile, most likely saved by my mother. I will read through them, for the fun of it and to get better dates on what I did while in Europe. Or didn’t: I found references to trips to Denmark and Spain that I didn’t take, probably because of motion picture jobs that came up.

Written during my first trip out of Germany, a job in Greece.

Written during my first trip out of Germany, a job in Greece.

Typed on a portable typewriter I took with me to Greece, apparently, though I don’t remember having it with me. Oh, for spell check! Computers make corrections neater, faster, and less obvious.

The thing I remember most about this trip was the six hole biffy, the Turkish-style squatter that was wooden planks over a trench latrine with six strategically placed holes. Burlap bags hanging over the opening offered some small privacy from the farmer’s beautiful (and no doubt heavily haired) daughter who made an effort to be across the ravine separating their farm from the camp anytime there were soldiers out and about.

This matter of privacy was a concern to one of the Green Berets on the trip, and he used the biffy facing in instead of out. His ill-placed “offering” converted the biffy into a five holer for the duration of our stay.

I never wanted to be a soldier, so I was very fortunate to be accepted for training as a Mopic photographer, then be stationed from July 1970 through the end of November 1972 in Germany.

I never wanted to be a soldier, so I was very fortunate to be accepted for training as a motion picture photographer, then to be stationed from July 1970 through the end of November 1972 in Germany.

Here I am, making a light check so I can set my exposure correctly. My team leader, I guess, took this of me when I was in Greece for a joint Green Beret-Greek special forces exercise involving a jump from a plane into the Mediterranean, a long swim ashore, followed by storming a hill and taking an “enemy” position.

The swim was in December. Ugh! I felt sorry for them and glad for myself that I had no aspirations to be a hardcore soldier! The motion picture photographer job in Germany and Western Europe was just fine with me!

Post 456: a walk in the Pfaelzerwald, south of Kaiserslautern, 1971

I was in the US Army between 1969-1972, stationed in Kaiserslautern with the 69th Signal Company (Photo). I lived with a couple of my army buddies for a short time in an apartment on Beethovenstrasse, our way to relieve us of army routine and to immerse ourselves a bit in the local culture.

While in that Beethovenstrasse apartment, I had friends visit from Paris — Ralph and Deborah — who’d hosted one of my army buddies and me or just me different times at their home in Paris, then Strasbourg.

I suggested we take a walk in the lovely Pfaelzerwald, south of Kaiserslautern. It was during that walk Ralph discovered the possible home of German elves.

Ralph examines a mound in the Pfaelzerwald for evidence of little people habitation...!

Ralph examines a mound in the Pfaelzerwald for evidence of little people…!

In case a little person popped up, we surrounded our friend to defend him against abduction into the dark hole…

Scary! Has to be occupado!

Scary! Has to be occupado!

Fortunately, Ralph leaped back in time. Highlighted in the circle, pointed to with an arrow, is my proof of little people — elf! — habitation of this mound!

elf house up close elf highlighted

OMG! I see more and more faces in the mound and above it, not just the one I highlighted! Ralph was in great peril, much greater than we realized at the time!

Whew! I think the German government put a bounty on elves shortly after this photo was taken, and it now is safe to walk in the Pfaelzerwald.

Shinji Kasahara, victim of the dreaded peace sign!

You learned elsewhere that I was a US Army Motion Picture Photographer in the early 1970s, stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

In that job, I travelled to many places in Europe to film NATO exercises, missile firings, joint German-American Volksfests, “hometowners” (short films of individual soldiers doing their army job, that got sent to a television station in or near their hometown), and miscellaneous “stuff”.

These films my teammates and I made we shipped to an army facility in Alabama to be processed, which sent a print to the Pentagon to be critiqued. The print of the films and the Pentagon critiques came back in a few weeks to the 69th Signal Co. (Photo), my home company, for us to view and learn where we did well or needed improvement. Arrival of the critique prints was a great lot of fun!

We had general rules of what not to show in our films. No one drinking alcohol (unless at a Volksfest!), chewing gum, or smoking. No horseplay. Nothing that reflected poorly on the US Army, such as out-of-uniform soldiers. (We were, in a sense, making propaganda films for the US Army, of course.) AND, the biggest bugaboo: NO ONE FLIPPING THE PEACE SIGN! This was the Vietnam War era.

Watching Shinji Kasahara’s latest video, a 29 minute visit to Seattle, with lots of his cats edited in (his main video output is wonderful cat videos), I had a flashback:

Scene from Shinji Kasahara's Seattle visit video: On the streets of Seattle.

Scene from Shinji Kasahara’s Seattle visit video: On the streets of Seattle.

Watch the woman coming up from behind!

"You cow! You just ruined the shot!"

“You cow! You just ruined the shot!”

I couldn’t believe the woman flashed the peace sign! In my army days, that snippet of action would ruin a scene, necessitating reshooting it or making sure the caption notes we enclosed with the undeveloped film included reference to the unplanned peace sign in scene such-and-such! Not to note the peace sign got a bad review. To cover for the peace sign meant extra time CYA-ing oneself in the paperwork so the Pentagon reviewers didn’t get the idea you purposefully staged the peace sign “incident”. LOL!

Over 40 years after my time as an army motion picture photographer, I still got a chill when the woman flipped the peace sign!

I’m sweating now thinking of it. I could use a few Japanese cat videos to relax. Hey! Shinji Kasahara makes great cat videos. He’s Japanese! Maybe you’d like a taste of them, too:

…or, for the more adventuresome with 29 minutes to spare, here’s the infamous Seattle peace sign video:

There! I feel cool and relaxed again thanks to Shinji Kasahara and his cats!