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Vietnam monument at Capitol moves forward
Ken Herman, Commentary
Updated: 11:14 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012
Published: 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012
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BASTROP — I have some updates on the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, slated to be the next statue added on the Capitol grounds: The money's coming in, the South Vietnamese soldier is coming out, and in a nice touch, 3,415 dog tags will be encased in it bearing the names of the 3,415 Texans killed in the Vietnam War.
And still to come is an anticipated announcement of a $2 million contribution from a noted Texas businessman, who's not ready to be identified quite yet.
But even without that money, the committee behind the project recently noted passing a significant fundraising milepost en route to its $1.5 million goal. Any money raised above that goal will be used for educational and other programs.
"Thanks to the support of Texas individuals, veteran organizations, foundations and corporations, and with a $500,000 matching grant from the Texas Historical Commission, we have now reached 80 percent of our fundraising goal," committee Chairman Robert Floyd said. "We are absolutely delighted to announce that production of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument has begun."
Sculptor Duke Sundt's granite and bronze monument will stand on the Capitol's northeast lawn. Groundbreaking is tentatively set for March.
That work is taking place in Bastrop at the Deep in the Heart Art Foundry as the committee moves toward an autumn 2013 target date for dedication on the Capitol's northeast lawn, with groundbreaking tentatively set for March.
The dates are about 10 years after Floyd, in a reminder that even a lobbyist can have a good idea, began shopping for support for a Capitol tribute to Texans lost in Vietnam. Floyd, a Vietnam veteran, worked with others, including state Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, and state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, toward 2005 legislative approval for placing a privately funded monument at the Capitol.
The idea and legislation led to a committee, with Lady Bird Johnson as its honorary chairwoman until her death in 2007.
"We thought it was important to have Mrs. Johnson and the Johnson family involved because Lyndon Johnson was a Texan," Floyd said. "And his presidency, of course, was directly involved with, maybe overshadowed by, the war in Vietnam. Because of the reverence we held for Lady Bird we reached out to her and she graciously accepted."
The sculpture was done by New Mexico artist Duke Sundt, who has said his goal is a monument that will make young people "think about it, ask questions and want to know more about the sacrifices so many have made." The Vietnam War indeed was so long ago that it is a history book and movie event for today's young people.
Long ago though it was, many questions about it remain perplexing. Anything, including a Capitol statue, that provokes thought and questions about Vietnam is a plus.
A model of the statue in the Bastrop foundry's showroom shows five infantry personnel on patrol. The committee is proud of the fact that it will be the first Texas Capitol monument to "reflect the racial diversity of Texas culture." That's true, as well as a reminder that the military — and war — perhaps has been the most effective way to break down our nation's racial walls.
As it sits in the foundry, the model of the statue includes a South Vietnamese soldier as one of the five patrol members. That's being changed.
"After much discussion and reflection," Floyd said, "we wanted the monument to represent the ethnic and cultural diversity of Texans serving in the Vietnam War."
So the South Vietnamese ally will be out, to be replaced by an Asian American soldier who will join the Hispanic, African American, Native American and white solders on the statue.
Potential controversy also has been avoided by deciding to put dog tags with the 3,415 lost Texans' names in a foot locker inside the statue. Floyd says the committee was warned that any attempt to post the names on or near the statue could lead to inevitable controversy, perhaps about who qualifies as a Vietnam casualty.
At the Bastrop foundry, owner Clint Howard is proud to be involved in the project, which will be an important part of his company's work for months to come. Each figure in the statue is 1½ times life size, the maximum allowed for Capitol statues. The monument's base will include panels depicting naval, artillery, medical and aviation services that supported combat patrols.
Deep in the Heart Art Foundry has been involved in several state projects, including the ill-fated Juneteenth statue that became something of a laughingstock because the central figure wound up looking like former state Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, who chaired the committee in charge of the project.
Bastrop foundry owner Clint Howard stands with a model of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It features Asian American, Hispanic, African American, Native American and white soldiers and is slated to be dedicated in the fall of 2013.
After it was completed, the statue was scrapped and will never be installed at the Capitol. A new version is in the works, and five of the six figures (all except the Edwards-looking one) still stand outside at the Bastrop foundry while the state figures out what to do with them.
Says Floyd, "I think the Juneteenth monument has been a really good model of what not to do."
Also at the foundry is the "East Meets West" statue commissioned as part of a Route 66 tribute in Tulsa, Okla. It shows a Model T and a horse-drawn buckboard about to crash into each other. Not far away is a statue of Buc-ee, the increasingly familiar mascot for Buc-ee's, the oversized roadside stores/gas stations.
Howard and his team at the foundry are excited about moving forward with the Vietnam statue, which will be part of a "living monument" that will include profiles of Texans who served in Vietnam.
You can find out more about the project at
Contact Ken Herman at 445-3907 or email@example.comUPDATE: This story has been updated to correct Sen. Juan Hinojosa's party affiliation
R E S O L U T I O N
WHEREAS, The year 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of significant U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, and this milestone offers a fitting opportunity to honor Texans who served in that conflict and to recognize those who are working to help erect the Texas Capitol Vietnam War Monument; and
WHEREAS, The State of Texas made a heavy contribution to this country's military effort in Vietnam; of the many thousands of Texans who served in Southeast Asia, 3,415 were killed in combat, and 107 remain missing in action; in addition, Texas is currently home to more than 500,000 Vietnam War and Vietnam War-era veterans; and
WHEREAS, Authorization for the construction of a Vietnam War monument on the grounds of the State Capitol was made by the legislature in 2005; the sculptor Duke Sundt was chosen to design the memorial, and a campaign is currently under way to raise the $1.5 million in private funds required for its creation and installation; and
WHEREAS, To further that effort, Patrick M. Reilly, a charter member of Texas Capital Chapter 1919 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, is traveling around the state, with the assistance of his chapter and along with other veterans, to exhibit a maquette of Mr. Sundt's design; the maquette has previously been displayed at such sites and events as the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch, the Houston Rodeo, and the Vietnam War Symposium at Texas Tech University; it is currently on exhibit at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station; and
WHEREAS, Mr. Reilly exemplifies the valor of those who served in what remains America's longest war; born in 1948 in Oklahoma City, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and in 1967, at the age of 19, deployed to Vietnam; during the time he served with Weapons Platoon of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, he earned the nickname "Rocketman" for his skill and accuracy in operating the light antitank weapon; Mr. Reilly participated in Operations Essex, Auburn, and Hue City before being wounded in the opening hours of the Tet Offensive in January 1968; by the time U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had quelled the massive surprise assault by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops some two months later, all of Mr. Reilly's close friends had been killed, and not a single marine who had been in his platoon when he arrived in-country remained present for duty; the injury that Patrick Reilly had sustained necessitated the amputation of his right leg, and he has since worked intensively with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve prosthetic services for veterans; and
WHEREAS, Nearly four decades have now elapsed since the end of the Vietnam War, but the passage of time can never diminish the debt that Americans everywhere owe to those courageous individuals who bore the strife of battle in answer to their country's call; the raising of a memorial at the State Capitol to the bravery and sacrifice of Texas Vietnam veterans is indeed deserving of support by every citizen of the Lone Star State; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 82nd Texas Legislature, 1st Called Session, hereby commend Patrick M. Reilly and the members of Chapter 1919 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart for their efforts to bring the Texas Capitol Vietnam War Monument to fruition; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Mr. Reilly and for Chapter 1919 as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives
Texas Capitol Vietnam Monument
CAPITOL OF TEXAS VIETNAM WAR MONUMENT
By Patrick M. Reilly
-Life member of the Veterans of the Vietnam War
On May 4, 2005, House Concurrent Resolution 36 was signed by members of the Texas Senate and House and signed into law on May 20, by Governor Rick Perry. This action by elected Vietnam Veterans during the 79th legislative session, allows for a monument to be built on Capitol grounds to honor Texans who fought in the Vietnam War.
This monumental recognition will represent closer to well over 500,000 Texans that served in Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. The monument will stand among statuary and memorials honoring Veterans who fought at the Alamo, in the War between the States, Spanish – American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Among their heritage, the Vietnam Veterans will stand and be honored.
After months of meetings, consisting of Vietnam Veterans and our South Vietnamese allies, the debate over abstract versus traditional design was resolve with the latter winning. Texans are a traditional people and abstract art doesn’t speak well to the tens of thousands of Children that visit the Capitol every year. This monument will speak for us long after we are gone.
The task of finding a design that can represent twenty one years of War was not going to be easy. To find an answer for this seemingly impossible task, a visit to Jan Scruggs was in order. Mr. Scruggs had been down this road three times before and his advice was to the point: “Treat your monument as a piece of art”. Next stop, Paris, France.
Having traveled to fifty-eight countries and touring over seventy art museums, visiting the Louvre seemed appropriate. The Louvre is one of the world’s finest custodians of all forms of art. Maybe there, the answer to how a long complex war within seventeen feet square can be found. At the end of a long day, an ancient Roman Sarcophagus, over 2,000 years old, gave the answer. All around this stone carving was a motif representing an ancient battle that contained archers, cavalry, chariots, infantry and all the other skills of battle. This answered a major concern by members of the executive committee on how to represent all the skills of the military branches in Vietnam. The concern was valid and justified an answer, especially after a presentation of a concept design showing Grunts at the top of a round pedestal.
The next major task was to find an artist. The artist had to have some military understanding, not a very common characteristic among artist. A Western flair representing Western Americana and above all, compatibility. Again, a very rate trait to be found among artists. This compatible aspect was extremely important, because this was going to be a Veterans hands-on project. This search was made by another artist who was best qualified to recognize the personality needed. We didn’t know what was out there, only another artist could. Thanks to the personal knowledge of artist Johnnie Sielbeck, the artist for the monument was found. Mrs. Johnnie Sielbeck had volunteered to advise the design committee. Her short time with the committee was the productive.
After advising committee members about Duke Sundt, Mrs. Sielbeck notified us about a gallery in Marble Falls, Texas that had Duke’s art pieces on display. Duke was teaching art classes in Fredericksburg, Texas at the same time, which provided an opportunity to meet. After examining Duke’s art at Riverbend art gallery, a sculpture of a longhorn stood out. All around the base committee was summoned to meet Duke Sundt at the art gallery, and all who came were impressed. Anybody can draw lines and circles, but only a trained, experience artist can sculpture bronze and create a life form.
Duke Sundt came from a military family. His father was a West Point graduate and served thirty years in the Army. Both his oldest brother and first cousin were grads of West Point and both served with the infantry in Vietnam. In 1985, Duke was commissioned to do five bronzes for the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. The 1.2x life size bronzes represented a World War I-Dough Boy, a World War II-Infantry Soldier and B-17 Bomber Pilot-Korean War – a Tank Commander, and the bronze of the Vietnam War represented an Infantry Solder. Perfect detail of the period uniforms and weapons demonstrate the hallmark of Duke’s art.
The artist was provided with an enormous amount of reference material including artifacts, books, private photos, models and 782 gears. There will be no assumption or assuming. There will be an actual item for everything displayed on the monument. Total review by teams of Vietnam Veterans will guarantee the authenticity of every detail. Basically, we gave Duke a junk yard and said, “Make sense of this”, and that is exactly what he did. In no time at all, Duke’s creativity went to work. All suggestions were taken into consideration and improved. Constantly in a state of change, the monument is evolving.
Duke’s appreciation of art began as a child living in Copenhagen. The eighteenth century sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and French sculptor Auguste Rodin had made an impression on Duke. But the artist Charles M. Russell changed Duke from an aspiring engineer into a cowboy artist. Duke is a real cowboy which enable him to recognize how authentic Charles M. Russell was in his paintings and sculptures of Western Americana.
The monument base will be constructed in granite called Texas Sunset, the stone of the Capitol. The granite base is symbolic in many regards. Aside from representing base support, the elongated octagon represents the perimeter of a Special Forces fighting camp and the outline of a French PK pillbox that were built all over Indo-China. The elongation symbolizes the longevity of the war. Around the elongated octagon will be bas-relief representing the Navy, Air Force, Artillery, Armor, basically base support and the Vietnamese culture. All with a beauty and artistic balance that will honor the men and women the war skills represent. At the top of the base will be the Grunts upon whom the high price of freedom was extracted. Over seventy percent of the names on the Wall are Infantry with the average age being twenty.
For the first time in Texas history the racial diversity of our culture will be represented on the capitol grounds. The radio man will be Native American, the sniper Hispanic, the corpsman/medic African American, the Rocket man a Caucasian and a wounded South Vietnamese Marine.
The location of the monument is on the East side of the Capitol with the front facing East. The location is perfect, especially when considering handicap access. The Vietnam War produced the highest percentage of lower extremity disabilities and amputation since the Civil War. It was 400 percent higher than World War II. Representation and access for all our brothers and sisters demonstrates our commitment and continuing friendship. Unfortunately, Due to a twenty year old live oak, benches surrounding the monument will not be allowed.
The estimated cost of the monument will be over a million dollars. Several items will be designed by Duke Sundt to help raise money. The first will be the combat cross. It is a fine art ‘lost wax’ bronze casting with a limited edition of one thousand. This simple design has been a warriors’ memorial since World War II and continues today. An M-16 rifle with bayonet thrust into the ground, helmet and boots make up the combat cross. For the first 1000 donations of $750,000 from Veterans and $1,000.00 from non-veterans, a combat cross will be reserved. Currently, credit card orders cannot be accepted, but this should be resolve soon. This item is museum quality and will be sought by bronze collector’s world wide. Duke Sundt has been in the bronze business for over thirty years. This price is below what the market normally calls for. The base of the combat cross will be the same Texas Sundt granite used to construct the Capitol. More affordable items such as cold cast bas-reliefs, medallions, and medals will be considered.
The target date for the dedication of the monument is the 40th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, January 31, 2008. This date was choose because it was the bloodiest day of America’s longest war. The completion and unveiling of the monument will be May 2010, to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the official end of the Vietnam War.
Supporters of our monument, please make checks or money order out to: Capitol of Texas Vietnam Monument Committee. All orders for the combat cross send to Mr. Robert Floyd, attention: Combat Cross Order, 111 Congress Avenue, Suite 500 Austin, TX 78701.
Comments and faves
- johngiovanni (54 months ago)
Real fine monument. Just curious as to the scale - do you know how large this monument is? And was it supposed to depict a specific time/place/event during the Vietnam War? Thank you kindly for sharing this series.
wiggiewormdog (38 months ago)
Hi, I'm an admin for a group called soulful group, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
wiggiewormdog (38 months ago)
Hi, I'm an admin for a group called sad world, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
wiggiewormdog (38 months ago)
Hi, I'm an admin for a group called a new world, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
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