Inspired by the experiences of Allen Perkal

"Portrait of an Air Force Medic"

Marjorie M. Huwa
24″ x 36″ • Oil on Canvas

Artist Statement

When I read Carlos’ story, I was floored. The type of loss, destruction and carnage he described sounded all too familiar from Hollywood war movies that I had seen. But to know that these were real life accounts of his experiences made me pour myself a drink and truly try to absorb what I had just read. 
When creating my piece, I know I didn’t want to include any of the imagery that he so vividly described , because I didn’t want to trigger any viewers who may have been in similar situations, or know someone that had, so I chose to stick with the overall metaphor of wearing the mask. I put special emphasis on the teeth of the mask as they seem to be the front line of his defense to outsiders looking in, and the smoldering smoke , fire and brimstone fuming from his head , could be interpreted as the darkness and Chaos being released from his psyche or actually his mind being engulfed by the atrocities that he survived, and the mask serving as a temporary extinguisher whenever he wears is it.

Where I’m From To Where I Was Destined to Be

by Allan Perkal

(Dedicated To Those Who Didn’t Return And Those Who Returned Different)

In Vietnam there was an expression, “It don’t mean nothin”
Now it does mean something
For me it is about Honor, Duty, and Country
Here is a story about that

I grew up in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, the birthplace of America, first generation of immigrant parents from Poland who escaped the Holocaust, leaving their family behind.
My first car was a ‘55 Chevy. Music was the beat I grew up to: Rock n’ Roll of the 50s, record hops, dancing in the streets. I remember 1960, 13 years old, on Roosevelt Boulevard, in Philly, the motorcade going by with John F. Kennedy, the future president of the United States:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
So, at the age of 18, with no clear direction in my life and thinking back to what Kennedy had said, I joined the Air Force in 1965. The time had come for me to give back to my country what it gave to my parents – freedom and an opportunity for a life without persecution. I trained as a medic. In early1967, knowing the Vietnam War was in full operation-I volunteered to go. My memory of the two weeks or so leave back home in Philly, May of ’67, is a blur. No girlfriend to say goodbye to. What was clear is that the unknown was about to become known. I jumped on an airplane from Philly to San Francisco, young and innocent at the age of 20. Awaiting the flight at Travis AFB I could see troops in full combat gear spread out on the floor, their faces told the story-the thousand-yard stare. Raw, unapproachable, they had just come back from Vietnam. What was in their heads? What had they seen and done? On the airplane, the final stop is where I entered the twilight zone. Do not attempt to adjust your set. This is the outer limits –Vietnam, there is no turning back. The heat and the smell welcome you to Southeast Asia.
1976-1968 in Vietnam, more than 50 years ago, would forever be remembered as the place and time where I would learn about the meaning of life-taught to me by the combat wounded that I took care of, and the more than 58,000 names inscribed on the granite “Wall” in Washington, DC. Every breath is a gift-cherish them all for you never know when your last one will be!
We, who served in that war forged a brotherhood that will live on for eternity-together
then, together again.