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99th Infantry Division Soldier Monument project seeks funding years ago

99th Regional Support Command

99th Infantry Division Soldier

Monument project seeks funds


     As the ranks of those soldiers assigned to the 99th Infantry Division during World War II diminish, a new generation of 99th soldiers continue to embody the spirit of their service in America's Army. It is important to the honor of these men, that their service and acts of heroism be remembered.

     Three years ago, in a small meeting room in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh, committee members of the 99th Infantry Division Association, Inc., began taking the first steps in a planning and execution mission that will one day, indeed, prove "monumental."

     The group decided to pursue the idea of designing and contracting a larger-than-life sized bronze monument representing the 99th soldier in World War II, specifically those who served during the Battle of the Bulge, where the 99th — outgunned and outmanned — stubbornly held the line at Elsenborn Ridge, a stand now credited by military historians as a decisive and critical point in defending the north shoulder of the Bulge.

     The historical lineage and honors earned by those soldiers — and by every soldier who wore the "Checkerboard" patch, is worthy of such recognition, and must be maintained into the future to ensure their sacrifices for freedom, and their stories . . . will not be forgotten.

     The 99th Infantry Division, Inc., is an organization dedicated to that cause. The group succeeded in creating and maintaining historical exhibits dedicated to the 99th in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh, where the 99th was first assigned. The division's patch was designed from the Coat of Arms of the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt, for whom the city of Pittsburgh is named.

     With such close ties to the city, and with the 99th Regional Support Command headquartered in Pittsburgh, the new HQ building near Pittsburgh International Airport has been chosen as the ideal site for the monument.

     The 99th Infantry Division Association, Inc., initially contracted Pittsburgh sculptor Susan Wagner to present three conceptual figure studies for review. After researching the 99th's campaigns, Wagner created three clay models. One pose was overwhelmingly selected. Wagner first created a two-foot maquette in clay, which was then used to cast a polymer resin figure. It has been coated with a coppery, bronze finish to approximate the effect of the proposed 12-foot soldier for the monument.

     The 99th headquarters building's central entrance was selected as the monument's location, with 360-degree access. The soldier will face Business Route 60, now officially designated as the 99th Infantry Division Memorial Highway. The monument will be surrounded by lush landscaping and dramatically illuminated at night.

     The Headquarters facility will be open to the public, allowing tourists and visitors to view the monument. The current proposal is for a 12-foot bronze mounted atop a two-tiered base of eight feet. At least one of the tiers will be stone from a quarry on Elsenborn Ridge in Belgium.

     A bronze plaque with a concise history of the 99th Infantry Division during World War II will also be affixed to the stone.

     Funding for the project is now being approached from several directions. The committee's fundraising efforts will be focused into three main areas — the use of city, county, state, and federal monies and grants; donations from corporate sponsors, both regional and national; and from the 99th Infantry Division Association. The committee also will solicit individual donations and sponsor special events to raise money. Total cost of the projected package will be $200,000.

     The monument is, without question, the largest project the committee has attempted. But the evidence of permanent glass and hardwood display cases and walls, and the two stained glass windows in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, suggest the group will once again be successful, and the result of their effort . . . will help preserve the legacy of the 99th Infantry Division soldier . . . for all time.

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