Penn Area's 'Human Library' will feature Vietnam veterans telling their stories
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.