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On the Cover Continued from previous page

In it for the long haul, Eric and Viviana celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in August with a party at Blue Ox. Friend and Radioman co-producer Lester Grant says it was an honor to officiate the renewal of their vows. Photo by León Villagómez

Build to edge of the document Margins are just a safe area

16TH Annual

River Lodge Craft Faire Saturday & Sunday • Nov. 18 & Nov. 19 DOORS OPEN AT 10AM SHOP FOR UNIQUE, LOCALLY HANDMADE GIFTS (FROM OVER 30 CRAFTERS ON THE NORTH COAST)

Bring a Friend and Stay for Lunch!!! Café Court by: Fortuna High Culinary Arts Class

1800 Riverwalk Drive, Fortuna • FREE Admission

22 NORTH COAST JOURNAL • Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 • northcoastjournal.com

trying to figure out a new way to navigate the world every day,” he says. “They’re becoming new people all the time.” The same was true of Eric, McManus says. “He knew who he was when he was a radioman and when he came back, he had no idea who he was.” In the decades since his return from Vietnam, Eric has fought to resurrect his identity. “I’m a craftsman,” he attests. “But you can’t never replace the soldier. It’s burned in there.” “For 44 years, I built all of this and worked seven days a week to not have to think,” Eric continues. “But it doesn’t matter how far or how fast I’ve run; that damned shadow is right there.” With this in mind, he and Viviana started a program at Blue Ox in 2014 to help veterans redefine themselves after coming home from war and to teach them to build something they can hold up to the world at large and say, “That’s me. I did that. That’s what I do.” “All they need is a new identity,” insists Eric, with the urgency of someone who yearns to pass on the perspective of a hard lesson learned. “The minute they find out what they’re good at, they’re like an old engine: You dink with ’em and dink with ’em and the instant they fire off, get the hell out of their way! Everything about that engine wants to run.” In 2015, working from the only known photograph, Eric and his team of veterans from every branch of the military built a historically accurate reproduction of President Abraham Lincoln’s hearse for the commemorative 150th anniversary parade honoring Lincoln’s burial. The vets and their families were flown out to

Springfield, Illinois, where they saw 150,000 people line the streets to see the hearse they had built. “Only veterans could have done this,” Eric says. “The project was hard, and complicated, and the perfect job for veterans because, for them, retreat is not an option.” He runs a hand through his beard, peers over wire spectacles and launches into a detailed explanation of the cope and drag mechanism used to create the decorative aluminum castings for the hearse. The most difficult casting they made gave them fits, Eric says, “12 days of miserable failures. I’m not talking close — I’m talking miserable failures. I’m not talking one casting a day, either. I’m talking two, three, four tries every day for 12 days straight. But because they were veterans, retreat was not in the vocabulary. They went back for that 13th day and nailed it.” For the vets involved, Eric says the hearse project was life changing. “It was the first time some of these guys and gals had done something really good for society and didn’t have to use a gun to do it.”

Hope The hearse, and what it represents as an opportunity for hope and healing, has its own part in the monologues. From the beginning, the Hollenbecks and Grant impressed upon McManus that the play had to end with hope. “We have no interest in annihilating people,” Grant says. “Eric and Viviana strongly feel there’s a different type of voice that needs to be heard from veterans, one that’s so real and so raw — but we also don’t want folks to walk out of this play bleeding through the eyes.

North Coast Journal 11-09-17 Edition  
North Coast Journal 11-09-17 Edition  
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