Client: Giles Leadership Class
Location: Pulaski, TN, United States
Completion date: 2013
Artwork budget: $85,000
A county-wide organization called Giles Leadership Class ( with members that change each year) wanted to commemorate all those who were veterans or loved veterans, without specifying a branch of the military, or a particular war or conflict and without depicting weapons. I designed this elderly man, in church clothes, imagining him having just visited the cemetery adjacent to the selected site after the Veteran’s Day Parade. He is resting on a bench underneath the American flag, gazing at dog tags. Viewers do not know whether they are his own, or the tags of someone he loved. Viewers can sit with him, in sympathy, empathy or kinship and remember the veterans they know and care about. I used a WW II veteran as a model for the folds of fabric in the suit, the shoes and the hat but the face is not any one particular person.
This piece is part of the veterans memorial near a cemetery. The area has flag poles and banners honoring current mean and women serving from the community in the armed forces. It was intended to be a sympathetic figure, kindly and with a deep wisdom.
After meeting in design talks with the entire class, and getting a design approved by the group, I worked with Pat Miles most specifically on the details of the sculpture. Together, we vetted the drawings to veteran's in the community for their approval. My research into the clothing and the posture of the figure was easy, since I knew a WW II veteran with the exact church outfit I had imagined. He posed for photographs while he told stories. He also came to the unveiling and his daughter read a page from his journal written near D Day in Normandy. The entire process, designing, vetting, creating and installing took a little over a year.
The emotional impact and sentiment of my work is very important to me, and usually important to my clients. We chose to unveil this piece on Veteran's Day. A color guard presented the flag, many veteran's attended and the flood of photo's I received of men and women who had their photo made with the sculpture was evidence to my clients and to me that this piece set the intended tone. Another sweet note; a local girl scout troop adopted the sculpture and cleaned and waxed it annually.