Hyman Strachman is a 92-year-old WWII vet from Long Island who has spent nearly a decade supporting the troops in his own special way: By sending them free-of-charge bootleg DVDs of first-run films by the box-load.
Strachman — "Big Hy" to his customers — is estimated to have sent some 300,000 illicit DVDs to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan since he took up the hobby following his wife's passing in 2003. "It's not the right thing to do, but I did it," he told the New York Times.
Many of those whose disbelief is temporarily suspended thanks to Strachman's piracy are thankful for that. "It was pretty big stuff - it's reconnecting you to everything you miss," said Army Reserve Jenna Gordon who toured as a medic with the 883rd Medical Company near Kandahar City.
Soldiers like Gordon and those in her care are what kept Strachman going despite the illegality of his endeavor. "Every time I got back an emotional e-mail or letter, I sent them another box," he said. Added his son, Arthur: "I wouldn't say it kept him alive, but it definitely brought back his joie de vivre."
Strachman notes that none of his DVDs are copies of commercial DVDs — just in-theater recordings and studio screeners. He says no one has ever asked him to pull the plug on his operation.
Motion Picture Association of America spokesman Howard Gantman said studios were likely unaware of Strachman, but did not indicate whether this new-found knowledge would result in a cease and desist.
"We are grateful that the entertainment we produce can bring some enjoyment to them while they are away from home," Gantman said in a tone the Times remarks "dripped with the difficulty of going after a 92-year-old widower supporting the troops."