A large statue of a U.S. soldier will be placed in downtown Warrenton by the end of the year, following a decadeslong effort.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Friday, a 9-foot by 9-foot plot was carved out of a grassy area across from Lighthouse Park on North Main Avenue. Project leaders plan to put the bronze, 7-foot, 2-inch statue — with a 6-foot-tall base — at the spot by early December. The statue features a Vietnam War soldier dressed in full uniform with rifle in hand, standing with his right foot perched on a rock and staring down reflectively as a single tear rolls down his right cheek.
“It’s a memorial for all of us,” said Todd Newton, an Army veteran and member of the Fort Stevens Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and Auxiliary. “We really don’t have anything here in Warrenton. It’s something we need in the community here.”
While agreeing that the statue honors all veterans, designer and sculptor Mark Kenny, who served eight years in the Coast Guard, added that he wanted to especially memorialize those from the Vietnam War era.
“They’re pretty much forgotten, and they’re not treated very well. Now they’re accepted,” Kenny said. “That was an important time in history, too.”
Kenny, 55, of Seaside, started working on his design after the Warrenton City Commission approved a $72,020 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Department in April.
Fundraising began for a monument 27 years ago, but an economic downturn stalled those ambitions. The local VFW decided to try again by applying for a biannual grant from the state specifically allocated for monuments.
Debbie Little, president of VFW 10580 auxiliary, completed a grant-writing class with this application in mind. Her husband, VFW Quartermaster Bert Little, also reached out to residents and businesses for monetary and service donations and gained political support from local officials such as state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.
In total, they secured more than $40,000, exceeding the original goal of $26,530.
“We didn’t have any opposition, basically,” Bert Little said.
Some of the money also came from purchases of 4-inch by 8-inch concrete memorial bricks that will be placed in the area below the statue. The bricks, still available for purchase for up to $60, are intended to individually honor local veterans by name.
The statue is the latest, but likely not the final, addition to an increasingly robust display near a busy downtown intersection. The grassy area next to the Post Office features several flagpoles and some other small tributes. A second bench may be added to the area sometime in the future, said Bert Little, who also sits on the Warrenton Parks Advisory Board. “We’d like people to be able to come here during the day and eat their lunch,” he said. “This is basically going to be a monument park.”