LEWISTON – Work has been completed on a larger-than-life bronze soldier, and now a group of veterans plans to take the statue on a road trip to fairs and other events in North Idaho and Eastern Washington to raise the final $20,000 to pay for it.
The statue, titled “I am an American,” cost about $80,000. It was recently completed by Lewiston artist John Gilliam and portrays a soldier with a wounded child.
“When my dog saw it, his hair stood up on the back of his neck and he started barking,” said Doug Olsen, a Vietnam War veteran in charge of raising money to complete the purchase of the statue.
“You don’t tell me that doesn’t show you that thing is real.”
After the tour, the statue is scheduled to be installed on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Lewiston.
The statue is designed to commemorate all branches of the military. Olsen said the stripes on the statue’s uniform indicate the figure is a sergeant.
Korean War veteran Boyd L. Pedersen, 75, said young people are the ones who need the memorial.
“Young people today, for some reason, are oblivious,” Pedersen said.
“A lot of that’s our fault,” said Rex Barstow, 79, also a Korean War veteran. “I never said anything to our kids about what service was like.”
“Especially anything good,” Pedersen added.
Frances Murphy, 61, handed Olsen a check for $100 to help the veterans reach their goal.
“If it wasn’t for people like this, we wouldn’t be here,” said Murphy, of Lewiston.
The $100 will buy Murphy a brick that will bear the name of Matthew Hammond, her nephew. The brick will be part of a walkway in front of the statue at the veterans home.
Murphy said that Hammond is a Marine who was wounded in Iraq by a sniper and that he isn’t allowed to return to combat. He now helps guard a general in Washington, D.C., Murphy said.
“We take so much for granted,” she said. “We’re used to the things we’ve got. We’re used to a safe country.”
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