One of the only monuments in the world specifically dedicated to women veterans was unveiled this weekend in Mount Vernon. This monument features statues of two prominent female veterans, Sergeant Molly Pitcher of the Revolutionary War and Major Tammy Duckworth of the Iraq War and was created by Xenia born sculptor Don Morris.
Duckworth, an Army helicopter pilot, was injured after her helicopter was hit by rocket fire, losing both of her legs and injuring her right arm.
Since then, Duckworth established the Intrepid Foundation to help other veterans with debilitating injuries. She was appointed in 2006 to serve as the Illinois Director of Veterans’ Affairs and in 2009, she was tapped by President Obama to serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Duckworth was present at the statue’s dedication event held this Saturday afternoon at Mt. Vernon’s C.E. Brehm Library.
Also present at the event was Morris. Morris currently resides in Rock Falls, Ill.
The sculptures and monument were initiated by the Illinois Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Assisting them in this venture were the American Legion, Downtown Mt. Vernon Development, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Brehm Library Board and of course, the City of Mt. Vernon.
Morris has worked with the DAR before, including the George Rogers Clark Statue at the Flora Depot. “If you want to get something like this done, the ladies at the DAR are amazing,” said Morris.
The main speaker of the event was Major Tammy Duckworth herself. Duckworth said that she was initially uncomfortable about having the statue made of her, “Eventually I realized, Tammy, it’s not about you. I needed to get over myself,” said Duckworth. “It’s about all women that serve this great nation.”
“When we think about the treasures of this nation, it’s not about the minerals in the ground, the corn in our fields, or even the weapons in our arsenal,” said Duckworth, “The greatest national treasure of this land is the men and women who are willing to put on the uniform and defend the way of life that we all cherish.”
“I am humbled to be the face of all of my sisters who have worn the uniform,” said Duckworth.
When it was Morris’ turn to speak, he said that he was happy to have the chance to work with Duckworth, especially during the research phase of the project.
During the ceremony, Morris joked with Duckworth. After she spoke, he presented her with a smaller version of the bronzes as a gift.
Emceeing the event was Luanne Frosch Bruckner, the State Regent of the Illinois Organization of the NSDAR. She introduced all of the other speakers and those DAR members who helped to make this possible.
Page 2 of 2 - Musical interludes were also provided courtesy of the DAR with songs performed by the vocal group Harmony Roses. Both the invocation and benediction were provided by Illinois DAR Chaplain Sharon Crumbaker Frizzell.
Along with the NSDAR dignitaries, Morris and Maj. Duckworth, those who spoke at the event included Mt. Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley, Dan Grant of the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Richard C. Groharing State Commander of the Illinois American Legion (Who donated the statue’s pedestal), Brian Edmison, the monument’s architect and Linda Page, president of the Brehm Library.
Also speaking was U.S. representative John Shimkus (R–Collinsville).
“From Molly Pitcher to current active military to veterans like Tammy Duckworth, when we honor one veteran, we honor all veterans,” said Shimkus.
Shimkus, a veteran himself, said that when he began at West Point, it was the first year they had allowed women into any of the U.S. Military Academies. “I’m proud today to say that I am a member of the first class of women to graduate from West Point.”