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Minuteman statue

October 14, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

A Minuteman statue years in the making was unveiled Saturday at the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing.

The statue commemorates a Colonial militia, the precursor of today's Guard.

The statue overlooks what soon will be a main entrance to the base, which is at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport south of Martinsburg.

The statue will help "other generations to know what it's like to be a Minuteman ... to live your life as a citizen soldier and have to pick up on a moment's notice to fight our enemies all across the globe or across this world ...." said Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, the West Virginia National Guard's adjutant general.

Saturday's dedication ceremony brought former Guard members back to celebrate - such as Rocky Banks, a first sergeant who said he served at the base for 24 years.

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The entrance at which the statue will be seen isn't open yet. The base is undergoing a $250 million upgrade as part of the effort to replace C-130 transport planes with larger C-5 planes and to extend the runway.

The Minuteman statue was created by sculptor Gareth Curtiss, who splits his time between Montana and Washington state.

The Minuteman himself, without the base, is about 61/2 feet tall and weighs about 400 pounds, Curtiss said.

The project was put together by a committee of five volunteers who started with just a thought.

The inspiration for the statue came from a scare in July 2003, when members of the Guard unit were returning from Puerto Rico.

Their C-130 plane was caught in a blast of violent air and had to land in Virginia Beach, Va., home of the 203rd Red Horse unit of the Virginia National Guard.

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The Red Horse unit had a Minuteman statue.

In Berkeley County, The Minuteman Committee raised more than $85,000, said committee member Charles Enders, a retired Guard colonel.

Including labor and other essentials, donations totaled "way over $125,000," he said.

Enders said the committee understood the community's pride in the Guard, but the project revealed the intensity of the pride.

"We always got more than we asked for," he said.

The Guard's retirees' association contributed more than $14,000, the most of any group, Enders said.

Part of the fundraising is selling handmade replicas of the Minuteman statue and a series of coins showing the planes that have been used at the Air National Guard base.

Enders said more than 2,000 coins have been sold.

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