By: Peggy Nelson
February 18, 2011

I love robots, and lack of joints will not stop me from creating what’s in my head.

Remember box-tops? How you were supposed to collect them and send them in, and receive in return (after a wait of 4-8 interminable weeks) a plastic toy? Well this guy does it with bottle caps. Except he doesn’t send them in, he uses them to make his own toys. And in a real-life episode of extreme DIY, he does it while on assignment. In Afghanistan.

[Note the smaller green army men “operating” the transformer]

Private First Class Rupert Valero is posted to Khandahar, Afghanistan. A maker and toy enthusiast in his civilian life, he collected and modified (“perfected,” in his terms) 6-inch action figures. However, lack of his usual tools and parts didn’t stop him. Despite combat assignments and scarce free time, Valero looked with new eyes at what was being thrown away, and started to apply his techniques of perfection to that: bottle caps, duct tape, and various other odds and ends.

Out here, it’s 4th world, not even 3rd world. Kids are corrupted at a very young age. Boys are brainwashed to be soldiers, girls to be literally work horses. The kids we see out on patrol have never seen a He-Man or DCUC Batman. Afghan children play with rocks and dirt, which is never in shortage. […] When we are outside the wire, and interact with the Afghan locals, I take some of my little creations, and you see the eyes open wide on these little kids.

[-from an interview on the Articulated Discussion blog]


Valero’s Flickr set
Valero’s Etsy store