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Penn Area's 'Human Library' will feature Vietnam veterans telling their stories

Patrick Varine
| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 1:12 p.m.
Jack Otto, 74, of Hempfield shows his drawing of the USS New Jersey, a BB-62 battleship in action during the Vietnam War. Otto has created 270 such drawings, and will bring them the Penn Area Library's 'Human Library' event Oct. 23.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Jack Otto, 74, of Hempfield shows his drawing of the USS New Jersey, a BB-62 battleship in action during the Vietnam War. Otto has created 270 such drawings, and will bring them the Penn Area Library's 'Human Library' event Oct. 23.
Above, Jack Otto's renderings of Army combat and combat-support insignias.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, Jack Otto's renderings of Army combat and combat-support insignias.
Jack Otto, 74, of Hempfield shows his drawing of units that provided close air support during the Vietnam War.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Jack Otto, 74, of Hempfield shows his drawing of units that provided close air support during the Vietnam War.
Above, Otto shows a pen-and-ink rendering of a Caribou C-4 plane.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, Otto shows a pen-and-ink rendering of a Caribou C-4 plane.
Above, a closer view of the detail in Otto's close air support drawing.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, a closer view of the detail in Otto's close air support drawing.
Otto's attention to detail when it comes to drawing military vehicles often catches the attention of fellow veterans, according to his wife Dorothy.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Otto's attention to detail when it comes to drawing military vehicles often catches the attention of fellow veterans, according to his wife Dorothy.
Above, Otto's drawing of his own 18th Military Police Brigade, along with other military police insignias.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, Otto's drawing of his own 18th Military Police Brigade, along with other military police insignias.
The Penn Area Library's 'Human Library' event will run from 1 to 3 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the library, 2001 Municipal Court in Harrison City.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
The Penn Area Library's 'Human Library' event will run from 1 to 3 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the library, 2001 Municipal Court in Harrison City.
Above, Army combat and combat-support insignias pop with color in Jack Otto's drawings.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, Army combat and combat-support insignias pop with color in Jack Otto's drawings.

In Jack Otto's drawings, it's the little details that occasionally make grown men cry.

“A lot of people can draw a plane, but Jack would draw it with the rocket cap up if they'd fired in combat, and the cap down if they hadn't,” said his wife Dorothy. “It's little details like that — the military guys really appreciate it.”

Otto, 74, of Hempfield, has been putting pen to paper since his days as an “A” art student at Hempfield Area High School. He is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and a veteran of the Vietnam War, having served as a military policeman from 1967 through the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Otto will be one of four veterans on hand at the Penn Area Library's “Human Library” event Oct. 23.

He spent most of his career creating interior floor plans, building sketches and promotional materials for a variety of companies, moving around the country a dozen times. On a plane ride home from a Venezuelan vacation one year, he spotted an ad asking for an artist with an understanding of military equipment.

Otto was just the man for the job.

It's easy to see the depth of detail in his drawings of C-130 warplanes, armored vehicles, tanks and other military vehicles. All 270 drawings feature the insignia of a particular squadron, and the insignia of individual battalions within those groups. Stark black-and-white vehicles are complemented by full-color renderings of patches for groups like the 18th Military Police Brigade, Otto's unit. He said that veterans are often very appreciate — and occasionally, emotional — when it comes to the level of detail he puts into his work.

Otto will bring the drawings to the “Human Library” event, which will run from 1 to 3 p.m. at the library.

Otto said he never tires of drawing something new.

“You're creating something,” he said. “I often see things that other people don't see.”

For more on the “Human Library” event and other Vietnam-related programs happening this fall, call 724-744-4414.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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