Military Matters - The Tikrit Memoral

Many of us have been there and done that  --  But lets not forget the young Troops that are doing it today.
  -- Snopes has challenged the description going around the internet

Memorial site at the Headquarters of the 4th Division while at Ft. Hood Texas

-- At Left:
A statue commissioned by Task Force Ironhorse will form a focal point for a new memorial to task force soldiers killed in Iraq.

The 4th ID has moved to Ft. Carson Colorado.  I am still waiting news of the memoral's status.

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American Forces Press Service

Memorial to Honor Fallen Task Force Ironhorse Troops

By Donna Miles   American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2004 -- A bronze statue of a soldier mourning a fallen comrade traveled from Tikrit, Iraq, to Fort Hood, Texas, this week to become the focal point of a memorial to the soldiers of Task Force Ironhorse who have died during Operation Iraqi Freedom.   The statue arrived at Fort Hood's Robert Gray Army Airfield Feb. 16, along with the first 60 soldiers in the task force to redeploy from Iraq, said Capt. Charles Armstrong, secretary of the general staff for the rear detachment.

Armstrong said the statue will be moved today to a 4th Infantry Division storage site as preparations for the memorial continue. Groundbreaking is expected to take place within the next two weeks, he said.

Task Force Ironhorse soldiers donated the $18,000 to cover the cost of the statue, created by an Iraqi sculptor from the melted-down remnants of statues he had been forced to sculpt for former dictator Saddam Hussein, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, public affairs officer for the 4th Infantry Division at its Iraq headquarters in Tikrit.

The 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood is raising private contributions to cover the $60,000 cost of the larger memorial project, Aberle said.

The Ironhorse statue depicts a soldier kneeling before a memorial of boots, rifle and helmet. With him stands a young Iraqi girl with her hand reaching out to touch the shoulder of the mourning soldier.   Army 1st Sgt. Glen Simpson, former first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, posed for the picture used to create the statue.

"The memorial will recognize those brave Ivy Division soldiers that have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of our nation during Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Ted Kostich, president of the Ironhorse Chapter of the National 4th Infantry Division Association of Fort Hood.

Aberle said 84 Ironhorse soldiers have been killed in Iraq.

NOTE: Posted 2011/01/30:  The 4th ID has moved to Ft. Carson Colorado.  I am still waiting news of the memoral's status.


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 SNOPES: Real photograph; inaccurate description.

Claim: Photograph shows a statue of a U.S. soldier crafted by an Iraqi sculptor out of gratitude to America.

Status: Real photograph; inaccurate description.

Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2004]

Origins: The sculpture pictured above is real, and it was indeed crafted by an Iraqi sculptor from bronze recovered by melting down statues of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but the accompanying explanatory text is quite misleading: Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Fuss, the division's top noncommissioned officer, headed up a project to commemorate the unit's dead and conceived of a memorial featuring the figure of a forlorn soldier kneeling to mourn before empty helmet, boots, and rifle an array of objects that traditionally represents a fallen compatriot.

Needing a sculptor to carry out his vision, Sgt. Maj. Fuss and other Americans asked around for local talent, and an Iraqi contractor recommended a 27-year-old artist named Khalid Alussy to them. As it turned out, Mr. Alussy was one of several artisans who had worked on a pair of 50-foot bronze statues of Saddam Hussein on horseback that flanked the gateway on the main road into the presidential palace compound in Tikrit, the site of the 4th Infantry Division's temporary headquarters. Commissioned by 4th Infantry Division officers to fashion the memorial conceptualized by Sgt. Maj. Fuss, Khalid Alussy (whose first name is also rendered in English as 'Kalat') took the assignment not out love for Americans, but because he needed the money:

The officers didn't question Mr. Alussy further about his political views. Had they pressed him, they might have learned that he's harshly critical of the U.S. and bitter over an American rocket attack during the war that killed his uncle. In an interview, he says he thinks the war was fought for oil and holds the U.S. responsible for the violence and unemployment that have plagued Iraq since.

"I made the statues of Saddam even though I didn't want to because I needed money for my family and to finish my education," he says, reclining in a room decorated with several of his paintings. "And I decided to make statues for the Americans for the exact same reasons."

Mr. Alussy's initial asking price was far higher than the officers had expected. He blamed the steep price of bronze. So the Americans decided to recycle the bronze Hussein-on-horseback twins. "We figured we were going to blow them up anyway, so why not take the bronze and use it for our own statues?" recalls Sgt. Fuss. "That way we could take something that honored Saddam and use it to remember all of those we lost getting rid of him."

Without having to supply the metal, Mr. Alussy agreed to do the job for $8,000. By comparison, the former regime paid him the equivalent of several hundred dollars for his work on the Hussein statues. To finance the project, Sgt. Fuss publicized it in the task force's internal newspaper and asked officers to get soldiers to contribute $1 each. Within weeks, he raised $30,000.1

In July 2003, Army engineers blew up the two Saddam statues, cut them into pieces, melted them down, and delivered them to Mr. Alussy's house. (The delivery was done furtively in case Mr. Alussy's neighbors proved to be less than thrilled about his being in the employ of the American military.) Using a photograph of 1st Sgt. Glen Simpson as a model for the depiction of the kneeling soldier, Mr. Alussy began his work on the monument; near the end, another segment was added to his task:

As the work neared completion, Sgt. Fuss and the division's commander, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, decided it needed a clearer connection to Iraq. The general suggested adding a small child to symbolize Iraq's new future, Sgt. Fuss says. When they told the artist they wanted another statue, Mr. Alussy demanded $10,000 more. "He learned capitalism real fast," Sgt. Fuss says.

After four months' worth of night and weekend labor, Mr. Alussy completed his assignment, and the statues were installed in an entranceway inside the 4th Infantry Division's headquarters in Tikrit.   In February 2004 the statues were flown to the 4th Infantry Division Museum at the unit's home base of Fort Hood, Texas.

Somewhere along the line, this coda was added to the original e-mail:

Do you know why we don't hear about this in the news? Because it is heart warming and praise worthy. The media avoids it because it does not have the shock effect that a flashed breast or controversy of politics does. But we can do something about it. We can pass this along to as many people as we can in honor of all our brave military who are making a difference.

As Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News pointed out in a later column, the Kalat story and photo ran in that paper on 27 March 2004 and was afterwards picked up and reprinted by newspapers all over the U.S.

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