The scope of this post has been one of those things that just gets shoved to the back burner - too much to write about, and ... where do I even begin? I've worked on it at least a dozen times, and since I've mentioned it to a few people, they're all "when's it coming out?" on me every other week.
Well, here it is, and I hope I do it justice.
This is the most amazing GI Joe collection in the world.
OK, I just made that last part up, but I think it's the most amazing collection. About a year ago, I met a fellow with whom I had an instant connection. In fact, we joked that we may have been brother and sister in a past life, we felt so familiar with each other.
Tony is a military buff, to say the least. He's served in Iraq, and along with is family, has devoted much of his life to the armed forces. Our first day together was spent walking around Nellis Air Force Base, touring museums, watching fighter jets take off and land, and even meeting with a small delegation of Saudi fighter pilots, for whom I was building a piece of furniture. Not your typical day in the life of a woodworker!
When I went to Tony's home, he mentioned that he had a small collection room that might need some cabinetry built in it. Then he proceeded to take me on a tour of his GI Joe room. Well, that's what I call it. He would probably refer to it as his Military History Museum.
Let's take a walk around...
(Oh - and I hope you're not offended at my language at the beginning of this video, but I was overwhelmed by this room!)
How do you even organize a collection like this? From the beginning of time, no doubt. This collection showcases military uniforms, working around the room in a dizzying display from the biblical era to current military dress codes. While the top shelves depict world history, each column (or bookcase) depicts military scenes from that era. For example, the top corner starts with Egyptian warriors, then moved to Greece, then to Roman soldiers, to Germans, and so on. My head is already spinning.
These shelves are arranged by countries, and major players of European wars - the Germans, Italians, Brits, French, the Russians, then Chinese then N. Korea then Viet Nam.
Scattered throughout the room are small vignettes of historical scenes - below is D-Day at Normandy.
The detail in these scenes is incredible, down to a soldier's shoelaces.
This row starts American soldiers in the late 1870s to the beginning of WW2, including Civil war, World War One, World War Two, and Korea.
Here's a German Kettenkrad motorcycle with tracks in the back.
It looks like a mini tank, and started out a light duty farm vehicle for airborne troops, and was small enough to be driven right into airplanes that could transport them around. Here is Tony's version of that - I wish I'd gotten a shot from the front, this is an AWESOME piece.
On the right (below) is a light artillery cannon, used by German paratroopers. On top, the soldiers (OK, the dolls....) depict colonial (American revolution - 1820) To the beginning of the navy. And the jeeps below? Jeesh! If you thought the GI Joes were amazing, the jeeps will blow you away.
Civil war union troops on top, confederate troops on bottom.
More 1960's vintage GI Joes and jeep
Here is a German Panzer VI Tiger tank, from WW2. This is an all metal tank, weighing about 63 tons, the first to mount an 88 MM gun.
German half-track Std 250 armored personal vehicle WW2, used as a command car.
One on front is a WW2 German 20 MM anti aircraft gun, behind it is a anti aircraft 20 MM quad gun. In the movie, Saving Private Ryan, this gun was featured in the scene where where the Americans were trying to destroy the German tank in the small village.
And another Vietnam era jeep.
I told you this collection was incredible, right? Words can hardly describe the detail included with every scene.
Another shot of D Day at Normandy.
Part of the diorama from above - a German camp site (notice the livestock for food).
Another picture of the camp, notice the horse drawn field kitchen. the Germans had to live off the land when they invaded a town, unlike the Americans who supplied themselves with C rations to feed their troops. Americans had standardized equipment, the Germans did not. Below is a a scene from a German mess area, complete with bags of potatoes and farm animals.
It has been said that war is hell; these small vignettes capture some of those heatbreaking scenes. Here are two paratroopers, with one cutting his buddy loose.
or a medic's field kit.
Here, a soldier receives a blood transfusion in the field.
One of my favorite scenes, from Pearl Harbor. This gun actually had sound, check out the video below.
I was never a huge history buff, so if I've mislabeled some of these images, I apologize. My hand couldn't write as quickly as my "brother" Tony narrated each scene.
And finally, a scene more personal that I tried to capture. This GI Joe represents Tony's son, who is currently serving in the Air Force.
The details on this military bag are incredible -
But besides thanking Tony for the tour, I'd like to thank him for his service to our country. And his family's service. It should go without saying - but I am going to mention it, anyway! - that behind every good soldier, there is usually a wife or husband that should be thanked, too. So - Hilda - you're an amazing, integral (and beautiful!) part of this, too.
Tony is just the type of guy who you envision when you think of the perfect soldier. Strong, brilliant, fearless, compassionate.
Well done, Brother!