Clarion file photo In this April 2011 file photo, Herb Stetler teaches a Soldotna Elementary School class how to properly fold an American flags. Stetler conceived of a project to bring an "Iron Mike" statue to Soldotna to memorialize military servicemen.

Clarion file photo In this April 2011 file photo, Herb Stetler teaches a Soldotna Elementary School class how to properly fold an American flags. Stetler conceived of a project to bring an "Iron Mike" statue to Soldotna to memorialize military servicemen.

Iron Mike statue to be seated in Soldotna

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, May 12, 2015 11:52pm
  • News

A five-foot, one-ton monument is headed to Soldotna Creek Park.

The Central Kenai Peninsula community and the City of Soldotna, led by the Soldotna Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #10046 are rallying around an “Iron Mike” bronze installation to memorialize the U.S. Military.

Korean War veteran Herb Stettler conceived of the project.

“He (Stettler) is going to get this done before he dies, if it kills him, or kills me,” said Soldotna VFW Post commander Mike Meredith.

The VFW is only taking collections from the community, to manufacture, transport and install the nearly $48,000 statute, Meredith said.

It will likely take up to two years to raise that much, Stettler said.

“Iron Mike” is a term for a group of monuments that memorialize military servicemen.

Stettler said he came across a photograph of an “Iron Mike” statue created by artist Leah Hiebert in the 1950s.

The general who commissioned that statue asked for an image of an airborne paratrooper.

That statue was installed at Fort Bragg and stood there fore more than 44 years before being replaced by a bronze replica, according to the Fayetteville Observer.

The local statue will be placed on top of an existing pedestal dedicated to each of the five branches of the military service that is located just inside the entrance of Soldotna Creek Park.

A POW-MIA flag, Flag of the United States and Alaska State Flag surround the pedestal.

The VFW wanted to make the project an entirely local effort, Meredith said.

It would be easier to seek donations from the local arms of large oil companies for example, but that would not accomplish the desired goal, he said.

“This is for the community,” Meredith said.

The memorial will likely include a board with a list of everyone who donated, Meredith said. This will allow local families with veterans to be included in the process, he said.

Stettler hopes to include an inscription on the local statue that reads “In honor of the military the administrative to frontline.”

The statue is being built in Minnesota and coming through Alaska Bronze and Granite based in Girdwood, he said.

The project is already garnering attention beyond the Kenai Peninsula, Meredith. Bethel VFW Post #10041 has already promised a donation for purchasing the statue, he said.

Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson said the city supports the project.

“It’s recognizing veterans and everything they’ve done for us over the years,” Anderson said. “How can you be opposed to a project like that?”

The Soldotna City Council passed a resolution in January approving placement of the statue in Soldotna Creek Park. The VFW will not be request any money from the city for the project.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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