Well, after watching no one volunteer, the guy next to me nudged me and said that he would do the Italian piece if I would do the modern piece. I figured what the heck and put my hand up. Little did I know what was in store for us.
We met with Mario for lunch along with a bunch of the other guys from the club. Mario gave us a rundown of his son’s experience in Iraq, showed us some cool video on his IPaq (kind of like a Palm Pilot for those familiar with such technology) of some training stuff that they did at the fort where his son had been stationed. He talked about his father-in-law and his WWII experiences in the Italian Army. After lunch we went out to the car and he turned over the kits that we were to build to us.
Okay, it’s now true confession time. I had no idea what an M109 was or what it did. I had no idea about what color to paint it or just how huge a 35th scale kit was. My entire line of paint for tanks was olive drab. When I opened the box it was quite shocking (and frightening). There were a billion pieces in the thing and not one that I could identify. I must say that I have a new found respect for guys that do 35th scale armor.
By the time I arrived home, I had an e-mail from Mario with a few photos of his son’s M109 (at least the front quarter of it) with some very basic paint scheme ideas. I also had the name of the tank that I was building and the numbers that were supposed to be somewhere on the front of the tank. After a couple e-mails to guys knowledgeable in such things, I had a set of general paint colors and an idea of a camo pattern to use.
Building a model of something that you have no idea what it should look like is something of an exhilarating and frightening experience. It’s something new to test your skills on (particularly your disaster recovery skills), but the downside is that you are building it for someone that spends their days on the real thing so it still has to be pretty good.
After two months of building, a couple meetings with the other guys who where building bases and cases for the project, the work had been completed. The kits were turned over for final mounting to the bases and final work on the plexi-cases that would keep the dust off of them.
A few days later I got an e-mail asking about a good time to meet Mario and his son for lunch. We set up a day, but the catch was, his son had no idea what was going on or why he was being dragged out of bed before noon to “go meet some people”.
I met Mario and his son (who is all of 19) at the door of the restaurant and walked out to the car with them. I unlocked the door and told Mario the “stuff was on the floor in the front seat” (sounds much like a drug deal, doesn’t it?). He reached in and pulled out the case with his son’s M109 and handed it to him. The young lad was speechless. He stood there for a minute and rotated the case around looking at all the “stuff” on the kit. He then proclaimed “that’s my gun!” with a huge smile on his face.
After two months of worrying, wondering and hoping not to screw up this project I felt like I could finally breathe again.
So what’s the point? A self-congratulatory slap on the back for myself, Roger (who built the Italian piece that I couldn’t pronounce, let alone spell) and Tom (who built the cases and did some really nice looking plaques for them)?
Well, no. My point for this month is maybe if you are in a building funk it’s because you are just building a bit too much for yourself. Maybe you need to put your skills to work for someone else. The look on the young man’s face when he realized that this was “his gun” was priceless and something that I’ll always remember. It will also be something he will remember for a long time.
Was this the best model I ever built? Nope. In fact it probably wasn’t even top ten. Was it my favorite model that I built? Definitely not. Will it be the most memorable model that I’ve built? You bet, at least it will always be in the top five!
I learned a few things from this experience. First, we can use our modeling skills for good as well as evil. Good is building something for someone else, evil is what your spouse thinks when you bring home yet another bag of kits from the hobby store. Second, while this isn’t a streak-breaker in terms of getting my model building kick started again, it still help to keep my skills sharp and forced me to complete something in a timely fashion. There was one kit to work on. There were no “do-overs” or “I’ll get to it later” type of things going on. The third and finally thing I learned was something I already knew, anything we can do for the folks in the service is a small sacrifice comparatively to what they are doing for us.
So, this month shut up and build something and give it to someone! You
never know, you might just make their day.