Monday, May 23, 2005

A Mike Upcountry

I ran across a photo of a Mike Ball from the Viet Nam War era. The image shows Mike with 11 days left on his tour.

The remarkable John Olson took the snap. You can see more of his work published in Stars & Stripes here.

Does anyone know 1) whether this Mike Ball made it home safely and 2) what happened to this him?

There'’s RealVideo and RealAudio of the photographer discussing his work during this period here. Of course, you need the utilities to see or listen.

This stuff has been on my mind recently and it is ironic that it appeared in a search now. I have been watching the DVD series of Band of Brothers. A former boss, Les Hashey, was one of the WWII 101st Screaming Eagles. He appears on the DVDs as a character and as himself in the interviews with the men from the story.

Les was a great guy, a tremendous amount of fun. He was the water-safety coordinator for the Red Cross for Southern New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania, and a friend of the family because my mother ran Red Cross chapters and taught swimming. In fact, my sister and I were also water-safety instructors.

I worked for Les for two summers when he ran the Candlewood Swim and Field Club in Lakewood, New Jersey. After the war, he was one of the top Army divers, doubly interesting because he had a polio-shriveled leg, which he didn't let bother him.

Friday evening's at Candlewood was when the adult members gathered for cookouts in the club, really an excuse to drink together. Les would wait until it was dark and the seated folk were pretty sloshed. I poured kerosene into the diving-tank end of the z-shaped pool. Les would climb up the five-meter tower. On his signal, I'd light the surface of the pool and he'd do a full twisting three and one half into the flames.

It wasn't exactly Jesus at Capernaum walking on the sea. Yet, to a bunch of drunks, it made the evening.

1 comment:

Boston Eye said...

Nice image, that diving into fire. But I also wonder about the girl in the photo on the helmet of Upcountry Mike Ball. Nice flip!