Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tribute to a Friend, a Husband, a Father, and a Veteran

This is a note by my wife Darla, written as a tribute to her dad for Memorial Day.

Several years ago I found a box of letters in my parents’ bedroom. I confess that curiosity got the best of me while I was looking for the sewing kit. I saw a box that I had not noticed before. It was dusty with no markings, but it gently whispered, “open me!” Would my parents have shared this box with me had I not found it on my own? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe they wanted to keep it between them and I can understand that now, but what a treasure I found! I found over a year’s worth of correspondence between my mom and dad while my dad was serving our country in Vietnam. Nothing had opened my eyes and my heart about my parents as did this discovery. Fear and love were scribed on every page. I even read the letter that accompanied an engagement ring sent from Vietnam to Michigan. Yes. That’s right. An engagement ring! Theirs is a love story for the ages. I wish that I could scan all of the letters and allow you to read this beautiful love story, but I will respect those intimate words and keep them in my heart and in that box for now. Just trust me when I say that they are lotion-kleenex-worthy. From Dad’s descriptive letters of meals (mostly talking about Spam in a can), to the engagement, to stories of close calls, loss and pains of war - my view of Bob and Linda Burl changed forever.

Below is a photo from 1970 of my Mom (then Dad’s girlfriend) and Dad at the airport. He was heading to Vietnam. I simply cannot imagine what this moment must have felt like for them. Pride and fear must have rivaled one another in their hearts. My dad was sent to Vietnam along with other high school buddies. My dad would be one of the few who returned.

Looking back on my childhood, I remember going to various Memorial Day and 4th of July parades, knowing that my dad would jump in with a random group of Vietnam War Veterans to finish the march. I remember listening to patriotic songs for hours with my dad and I would try my best to learn them and sing them for him. I remember the flashbacks of war that he suffered when I was a small child. I remember visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and standing next to my Father who sobbed as he rubbed the charcoal over the names of his buddies who never returned to American soil. Even now there is a solemness that overcomes him when he hears a helicopter. His time at war changed him forever. In some way it has shaped part of who I am.

On Memorial Day in 2008, Josh, Mom, Dad and I visited Freedom Hill in Clinton Township to see the moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. Dad had brought several photos and newspaper clippings/obituaries of friends who died and added them to a photo album kept by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chaper 154. I ordered a brick in his name to be added to the special memorial erected to honor those who served, those who fought and those who died in the Vietnam War.

On Veterans Day of the same year, he received a very nice packet of cards and notes from a group of elementary school students. They were being taught the significance of our veterans and the need to recognize them. My Dad was deeply touched by their words.

I want to close out my thoughts by sharing a snippet of a note that Dad wrote to me on May 24, 2009:

"38 years ago today, 24 May 71, three of my friends I served with were shot down at Fire Base 5. Two were KIA (CTP Dewey and SP4 Lubbehusen). SP4 John Littleton was rescued, but was wounded. On the next day, 25 May 71, another ship flew in under heavy fire to med-a-vac John and I was supposed to be on this rescue mission. Due to other circumstances I remained at base. The rescue ship was shot down again as they were leaving. John and all aboard were KIA. They were listed as MIAs, but their remains were recovered 2 months later. The rescue pilots KIA received the CMA (Congressional Medal of Honor).

I left Nam 16 June 71 and was home for good.

My heart still hurts."

I sobbed for quite some time after reading this and it still breaks my heart. My dad remembers it all. The names. The dates. The numbers. Every detail. This is why we must remember and honor our veterans for their willingness to change their lives and give their lives for our country.

So today I honor my Dad.

Thank you, Dad. I love you.

Mom and Dad at the airport 1970. Saying their goodbyes as Dad was leaving for Vietnam.

Dad's Christmas Dinner Menu from Vietnam 1970.

Mom with flowers that Dad sent to her from Hawaii. The engagement ring from Vietnam accompanied a letter that arrived at the same time.

Back home from Vietnam, June 20, 1971. A changed man.

I just noticed that my Dad is holding my mom's bright red, New King James Bible. I'll have to ask about that!

(Note: she did ask....he returned from the war, and they went right to church from the airport)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Scoop, a Shovelhead

Here is a Harley Shovelhead sculpture, it's the 144th bike I've done, and it's the 39th YOTC.

I'm kind of late to the game on the blog this week, there's only a day left to bid!

"Scoop" Auction for Charity

Nuts and bolts sculpture

Nuts and bolts sculpture

Nuts and bolts sculpture

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Story Behind the 2011 Mustang GT Sculpture

It was pretty cool how this project came about. My buddy Joe was deployed in the Middle East last year. Joe's a cool dude...he's in a band, rides a Ducati, and carries a machine gun. He was also the first person to purchase one of my motorcycle sculptures, WAAAAY back in 2008. He owns bikes #5, #13, and bike #125 was modeled after his old bike. I did that for him when he returned to the states.

Another friend of ours, Shaun, is just an all around good guy. He also has a deep respect for those who have defended our country in the military. He's one of those people that makes sure to say thanks whenever he comes across a veteran or an active soldier. Here's a quote from Shaun:

When I found out that Joe was going to be deployed I started to stockpile car magazines (and a few playboys). When he got over there I asked him if he needed or wanted anything specific, and there were two things he wanted: Gel to reduced Razor bumps when shaving your head and dark choc Reese cups. So I got them both (the gel was a pain to find lol).

I ended up sending 35lbs of magazines and Reeses to Joe for him and his unit to share.

To Shaun, this was just the right thing to do. But to Joe it meant a lot, getting a bit of home sent to him when he was many thousands of miles away, and when he got back he wanted to show him his appreciation.

Shaun's a Ford guy through and through, and even before the new 5.0 powered 2011 Mustang GT became available he signed his name on the dotted line. Sometime between when Shaun ordered the car and the expected delivery date, Joe decided that the best way to thank Shaun was to commission me to build him a sculpture of the Mustang GT. I was obviously excited to do so!

Another mutual friend is Matt, and he's a photographer, so we arranged to meet Shaun to do a photo shoot of the Grabber Blue GT on Belle Isle in Detroit. We let Joe know, and he met us there with the sculpture to surprise Shaun. I'm pretty sure he dug it(thanks to Matt for these pics)!

Here are a couple of pics of the sculpture. You can check out more here:2011 Mustang GT Sculpture

2011 Mustang GT 5.0 metal sculpture

2011 Mustang GT 5.0 metal sculpture

And the photo shoot was pretty successful too.

Matt got some really spectacular captures. Check them out here!

And some more details Shaun gave me on the car itself(he's planning on driving the hell out of it!). Rumor has it that there may be more to come :secret:

2011 Mustang GT 5.0 Premium
Grabber Blue
6spd manual
Brembo brake pack
3.73 L/S Axle
HID headlights
Security package
Navigation/10gb hard drive
Upgraded interior

FRPP 1.5" drop springs
FRPP Adjustable dampers
Steeda adjustable front sway bar
Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plate
Steeda Bump steer kit
Reahagen Racing Brake ducts
Steeda adjustable panhard bar
Reahagen Racing Chrome Moly rear lower control arms
Motol RBF 600 Brake fluid
Roush 427R bumper custom painted, with splitter
Mustang GT/CS rear spoiler
Mustang RTR 19x9.5 wheels -Street
Goodyear Eagle F1-D3 275/40-19- Street
Roush Trak Pak forged wheel 18x10 - Track
Hoosier A6 275/35-18 -Track
It's prepped for NASA TT-A
(NASA= National Auto Sport Association)

I was stoked to be able to have a small part in this story. A huge thanks to Joe for thinking of me when he decided to repay Shaun for his good deed, and thanks to Matt for the pics!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thumper the Pavement Pounder

I tried a few new tricks on YOTC #38. I exaggerated the features height wise just slightly, as opposed to lengthwise like on the last piece.

Get in on the bidding here to help Home Fur-Ever and Lifebuilders Detroit.

Bike 143 Harley sculpture

Bike 143 Harley sculpture

Bike 143 Harley sculpture

Bike 143 Harley sculpture

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cool Custom Key Chains

I've done a lot of the Tattooed Metal key chains over the last couple of year, but these are a little different. The crosses are made from stainless steel, I cut them out with a plasma torch and then heat and beat them on a copper plate to achieve the finish. The spark plugs are recycled plugs that have served their purpose to fire engines and now are gonna help you keep track of your keys!

These are available here in the key chain section of my Etsy store.

Maltese Cross (1)


Old Rugged Cross (1)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More from my mind...

Like last week's bike, YOTC #37 isn't modeled after any particular motorcycle. I had an idea in my mind for a smooth, curved, and flowing design, and put the metal together accordingly. The result is a piece that looks to be in motion even as it's still, all by using the natural shape of a few allen wrenches and doing a little tweaking to some tubing, nails, and tig rod.

"Salvador" can be bid on here!

Motorcycle Sculpture

Motorcycle Sculpture

Motorcycle Sculpture