Veteran's experiences in Vietnam inspire sculptures | MassCops

Veteran's experiences in Vietnam inspire sculptures

Discussion in 'Military News' started by LGriffin, Jun 1, 2011.

  1. LGriffin

    LGriffin Always Watching

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nightmares from Jim Lykins' time in Vietnam keep him awake most nights.
    But that's when he is most often inspired to carve the faces of the men he served with and the memories that haunt him.
    The veteran Marine from South Charleston spent a good bit of his time in Vietnam carrying a 28-plus pound pack as a radio operator in Papa Battery in the 3rd Batallion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.
    It was an artillery unit and they spent most of their time in the war torn southeast Asian country just south of the demilitarized zone in South Vietnam bordering on Laos. He would spend a little more than a year in the country between 1968 and 1969.
    Forty years later, he struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, but finds some catharsis in his art.
    He won Best in Show at the 2010 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, a national stage sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs where military veterans can show off their artistic side, for a piece he calls "Green Faces, Purple Hearts." The faces of 50 men stare out from the inside of a wooden frame.
    Lykins, 62, carved the faces of the men he served with who were killed or injured in the war. It was something he never really intended on showing anyone.
    "I did it from memory," he said. "I was starting to forget their faces so I would sit up at night and start carving them."
    His wife, Robin, said he would get up in the middle of the night and start working on them, sometimes carving details using a broken broom handle with a nail driven through it.
    "I got into this as sort of like therapy," Lykins said. "It's a way to make things permanent."
    His work is emotional for him to discuss. He is detailed in his work, painstakingly depicting wedding rings, open flak vests and even the type of bandages used to aid the wounded.
    The piece he entered in this year's festival is called "Valor - A Combat Wedgie" and depicts a Navy corpsman hauling an injured Marine off the battlefield. It's about 14 inches high and sculpted from clay and wax. He started it nearly 30 years ago but worked it through several drafts to bring it up to his standards.
    He calls it "a scene enacted through history in every place where men have fought each other." He said the Navy corpsman stripped off his excess gear and risked everything, in spite of his own fears, to get to a wounded man pinned down by enemy fire.
    The wounded man is clutching at his abdomen and looking back, as if trying to see what hit him, while the corpsman looks dead ahead at his goal, determination clear on his face.
    "He's hit in the abdomen and in the foot, and he can't get out of there on his own," Lykins said. "So this Navy corpsman who had some dressings left gets out there and bandages up his foot and bandages his belly and tries to get him out of there.
    "He can't carry him out over his shoulder like they train us to, so he throws a 'combat wedgie' on him and tries to haul him out the best he can."
    The combat wedgie is shown by the corpsman grabbing the back of the wounded man's pants for leverage to hold the man up. Lykins won't say whether the men made it or not.
    The sculpture as it is presented is in its "fourth or fifth" draft. He uses heavy geometric shapes and parallel lines to give the sculpture flow and a sense of movement. These men obviously are not standing still and are very much in a forward motion.
    The piece is being judged and Lykins is hopeful that it will also win Best in Show. The top three from each category in the festival are invited to present their work. This year the festival is being held in Fayetteville, Ark.
    Veteran's experiences in Vietnam inspire sculptures  - News - Charleston Daily Mail - West Virginia News and Sports -

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