AUSTIN — A new monument to honor veterans of the Global War on Terror was unveiled Saturday morning at the Texas State Capitol grounds.
Titled “The Price of Liberty,” the monument depicts an angelic Lady Liberty pulling a service member dressed in modern day combat gear away from his wife and daughter. The daughter is holding a folded American flag — foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice her father will make for his country.
“The faces on the statue — I’ve seen that look a million times,” said Sarah Lynch, wife of retired Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, a former III Corps and Fort Hood commander.
Her husband agreed that the inclusion of the family was both important and emotional. “I deployed six times. She was always home,” he said.
“The Price of Liberty,” sculpted by artist Sandra van Zandt, came to be through the efforts of the Texas War Memorial Board, an all-volunteer group led by retired Col. James Stryker of Houston. He said the idea for the memorial came to him after attending a deployment ceremony and seeing a daughter cling to her mother as she grabbed her M-16 and headed out for an overseas deployment.
“This monument is a small token of appreciation of what these men and women and their families have gone through on our behalf,” he said.
Stryker, a Vietnam War veteran, also wanted to ensure this monument was built as soon as possible, unlike the Vietnam War Memorial that was unveiled on the Capitol grounds 40 years after the war ended.
“We wanted to build a monument today that’s meaningful to this generation of warriors,” he said. Its base will include mementos to fallen service members and tributes to their sacrifice.
The 4th Infantry Division, formerly stationed at Fort Hood, was the first unit from the post to deploy to the Global War on Terror in 2003. Since then, a steady stream of soldiers has made the trip from Hood Army Airfield to overseas locations.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, 225,000 Texans served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and 611 died. Lynch said about 3,300 Texans were wounded.
“Seventy-six percent of American people have no idea what veterans are going through,” Lynch said. “We have to reach out and make sure they know the price of liberty so they support veterans and their families.”
With unseasonably warm, sunny weather, a crowd of curious Capitol tourists, veterans, active-duty service members and legislators from across the state attended the morning’s festivities, many proudly wearing motorcycle vests, buttons or hats to note their military service.
Purple Heart recipient William Thomas drove up with his family from Houston to see the unveiling. Wounds he received in Afghanistan on deployment from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii cost him his right leg. Using a prosthetic leg, he stood from his wheelchair for a photo in front of the monument.
“Seeing the statue and seeing how they commemorated soldiers, I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I’m really happy they honored the spouses as well.”
Though the statue made its public debut Saturday, it is not quite finished, Stryker said. Donations are still needed to help finish the installation and create an endowment for future maintenance so that the memorial is no cost to taxpayers.
It should be installed at its final home on the northwest corner of 12th and San Jacinto streets by the end of January. The fact that it’s on the path from the visitors parking garage to the Capitol grounds was no accident, said State Rep. Scott Cosper, R-Killeen.
“The monument was placed in such a visible location that hopefully it will raise awareness and appreciation from all of us who did not serve that cost of freedom — it’s a high cost, because freedom is certainly not free,” he said. “What an amazing honor it is to live in the great state of Texas that recognizes those that serve.”