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Iwo Jima statue arrives at WHS - Albia Newspapers: News

Iwo Jima statue arrives at WHS

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Posted: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 9:11 am

You’d probably have to check with Connie Keller for sure, but Jim Keller appeared more nervous than when he was waiting for his first child to be born on Monday afternoon.

Keller, and other members of Albia’s Welcome Home Soldier Committee were awaiting the arrival of a flatbed semi-trailer carrying the half million dollar Iwo Jima statue that now sits at the entrance of the Welcome Home Soldier Monument.

The truck, coming from  Pittsburgh through Chicago, was to have arrived at 8 a.m. Then the arrival was changed to 1 p.m. and then 2 p.m. The designer of the statue, that was made in Italy and shipped to Pittsburgh by Matthews International, an Italian native who spoke broken English, was on hand along with Bonnie McElhinny, an executive with Matthews.

They were as nervous as Keller and his team and cell phone lines lit up when the statue had not arrived by 3 p.m. It was finally tracked to Oskaloosa around 3 p.m. and apparently the driver had been stopped by the Iowa Department of Transportation for height restrictions.The truck finally arrived around 5 p.m. and then people really got antsy as the crane operator (who had been cooling his heels for four hours at $200 an hour) moved the big hook into position.

A half dozen volunteers helped empty the steel shipping crate of piles of spray foam that had locked the bronze into place for the boat ride from Italy to the U.S. and from the east coast to Iowa.

The crane slowly lifted the statue out of the container, swung it around to the pre-poured concrete slab and WHS volunteers, including Steve Griffin who helped locate the statue maker in the first place, lowered it into perfect position.

The 5,500-pound statue with bigger than life-sized U.S. Marine WWII figures was set down and the final protective covering removed.

By around 5:45 p.m., the American flag was attached by U.S. Marine veterans Tyler Boley and Tim Shehan and the monument was complete.

Keller, who had labored almost two years to raise the money for the statue and get it done right, could say very little. “It kind of chokes me up looking at it,” he said.

There were hugs all around when the statue was finally in place.

Hearing how the statue was built from McElhinny was a treat. First the Welcome Home Soldier Committee had to get permission from the Associated Press to use a photograph of the original raising of the flag on Iwo Jima near the end of WWII. WHS paid a licensing fee, then Matthews International designers went to work.

Since the photograph is one dimensional, designers had to come up with a 360-degree presentation of the photo. Drawings went back and forth from Pittsburgh to Iowa and a small statue made for final approval. Items like the design of the WWII Marine helmet, Marine footwear and the rifles carried by the men originally raising the flag were meticulously made.

And now it stands. The single most expensive item on the WHS monument grounds. But it’s not the last statue. The Vietnam statue is next and as the group waiting for the truck to arrive, they were planning for this next addition.

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