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By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 8, 2010 - The newly refurbished Three Servicemen Statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was unveiled today after six weeks of restoration.
"This is a very noteworthy event," said Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. "It's very noteworthy for the history of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, [and] it's really a notable event for our nation's Mall and the maintenance and preservation of our nation's Mall."
The statue was created by sculptor Frederick Hart. Nearly 26 years after its original unveiling in 1984, weather damage and age had taken a toll on the statue. Parts of the uniforms, weapons, hands and noses of the statue sustained some corrosion and deterioration.
The restoration was done in place, and it repaired oxidation damage and added a new patina coating and wax. During restoration, the statue was protected by a wooden enclosure with three seven-foot-tall windows that allowed tourists to view progress.
"Almost 26 years later, we're here to rededicate the statue and pledge our continued care," said Scruggs, a Vietnam War veteran.
The statue sits on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site here, about 200 feet away from and facing the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. The statue depicts three servicemembers – one Hispanic, one black and one white - and represents the more than 58,000 fallen servicemembers memorialized on the wall, Scruggs said.
"There's a sense of artistic and dynamic tension as the servicemen gaze at the sea of names on the wall," Scruggs said. "Over the years, people have noted that it seems almost as if the servicemen are looking to see if their own names or the names of their friends are on the wall."
Hart's widow, Lindy, was recognized at the ceremony for her husband's work. Hart was the only person "who had the extraordinary talent we were looking for and who would design the statue in such a way as to complement the memorial," Scruggs said.
Hart often is referred to in the artistic community as America's Michelangelo, Scruggs said, noting his other famous work, the Creation sculptures on the west façade of the Washington National Cathedral.
"It is really not an exaggeration to refer to him in that manner," Scruggs said. "He was really that good, ... as good as any of the masters in sculpture throughout the history of the world."
One of Hart's models for the Three Servicemen Statue, William Smith, 50, of Virginia, was present and recognized at the ceremony.
Smith's likeness was captured in the Cuban-American servicemember on the right side of the statue, carrying a .60-caliber machine gun over his shoulder. Smith was the only model who didn't serve in the military. The other two were members of the Marine Corps Honor Guard and, at the time, were stationed at Henderson Hall Marine Barracks in Arlington, Va.
Although Smith never served, he said, he's honored that his likeness helps to represent "some of the greatest Americans to ever serve."
"It's amazing to just be a part of this," Smith said. "Being a part of this just fills my soul. It makes me a much better American and gives my pride in my country."
Retired Army Brig. Gen. George Price, an advocate for the statue's creation in the early 1980s, and John Piltzecker, National Mall and Memorial Parks superintendent, also attended the ceremony.
"The National Park Service is certainly pleased that the Three Servicemen Statue has been restored to reflect the artist's intent," Piltzecker said. "We will continue to work with our partner, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, to maintain the statue for all to enjoy."
The restoration project cost about $25,000. The funds were raised by a National Park Service share grant and an in-home fundraiser by Lindy Hart. Individual contributions also were made. New Arts Foundry of Baltimore did the restoration work.
The project is part of a maintenance and restoration program by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to assist the National Park Service in site upkeep