LITCHFIELD - Area residents with ties to the military say they are proud to have been models for five bronze statues placed recently at a new Army medical center at Fort Hood, Texas.
The statues were placed during the last week of October at the entrance of Fort Hood’s new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. The center is set to open in the spring of 2016.
The statues were produced to honor older and younger soldiers and their families who have connections to Fort Hood and the Army.
One of the five models used by bronze sculptor Neil Brodin of Brodin Studios of Kimball to produce the statues was Bruce Cottington, 88, of Litchfield, an underage Navy veteran of World War II. The statue Cottington posed for represents the “old’’ military: soldiers who served during WWII and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Even though Cottington served in the Navy, he was glad to wear an Army cap for Brodin.
“I feel kind of proud about it,’’ said Cottington.
He along with seven other Minnesotans are among about 2,500 Americans still living today who are members of a national organization called Veterans of Underage Military Service.
They and thousands of other young men and women fibbed about their ages to enlist in the armed forces during WWII.
Those who modeled for statues representing the “young’’ military were National Guard member Donald Ommodt and members of his family of New London. The statue for which Ommodt, 41, a staff sergeant in the 682nd Engineering Battalion of Willmar, modeled represents veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Representing soldiers’ families were statues of Ommodt’s wife, Chasity, 39, and two of their five children: son, Jaryn, 14, and daughter, Gabby, 9.
Ommodt, along with son Bradyn, 20, a specialist in the 682nd, were deployed in mid-October with their unit for nine months in Kuwait.
Bradyn and siblings Samantha, 23, and Jaryn’s twin sister, Isabella, 14, were not used as models.
Chasity Ommodt said participating in the project was a great experience.
“I’m very proud to be part of that and to know that it will be there long past our time, and just being able to represent a military family that way,’’ she said.
Their statues depict a young soldier, his wife holding an infant, and two children leaving the medical center. (Chasity Ommodt said she held a doll because they didn’t really have a baby). As they leave, the young soldier extends his hand to shake the outstretched hand of the old soldier leaning on his cane.
The handshake, explained Brodin, makes a connection between generations of soldiers who served Fort Hood, and by extension the entire Army.
“I wanted to make it realistic and interesting and I very much wanted the sculpture to honor and remember the veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam as well as our younger soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq,’’ said Brodin. “The handshake, perhaps, will draw the attention of the observer to the focal point of the five figures and will make the bronze statues seem to move.’’
The project began several years ago after Fort Hood offered Brodin an opportunity to bid on the new medical center’s statue project. Brodin said the Army must have known about Brodin Studios’ reputation over 35 years for producing bronze sculptures representing law enforcement, fire and rescue and military personnel.
During initial talks, the committee told Brodin they wanted a 12-foot statue, which Brodin said would be unbelievably large. They eventually approved Brodin’s suggestion of 150 percent of life size, which would make the soldier 9 feet tall.
In a further committee interview, a colonel told Brodin that the family wasn’t doing anything in the drawing provided by the architects, and he wanted something to represent older soldiers. Brodin suggested adding the older soldier and having them shake hands as a way to connect with the wars because everybody was a young soldier at one time.
“They agreed to that and expanded the contract,’’ he said.
Brodin, a native of Litchfield, tapped Cottington to model for the old soldier. “I’ve known Cottington for a long time and he fit the bill,’’ Brodin said.
Brodin was looking for a young soldier with a wife and small children when he happened to meet Donald Ommodt at the Litchfield Armory. Brodin proposed the idea; the couple talked it over and agreed to participate. Chasity Ommodt was hesitant at first because she didn’t want the three children who didn’t model to have hurt feelings. But she agreed after they encouraged her to participate.
Photos and a video of Cottington and the Ommodts posing for the statues were taken at the Litchfield Armory. The statues were constructed in pieces in a multi-step process using clay models, rubber molds, and wax. The wax pieces were used in a further process at Casting Creations, a foundry in Howard Lake, to form the bronze pieces. Afterward, the pieces were welded together and a lacquer was sprayed to protect the statues from the elements.
Brodin said the finished statues stood in his studio for about year until the Army called and requested they be delivered. The statues are not solid but are actually hollow.
Cottington, Chasity and her children hope to attend the ceremony when the medical center is dedicated, along with the statues. Chasity said her deployed husband and son won’t be home in time to attend, however.
Brodin said he and his company were honored to do such a large and meaningful artwork.
“I will always believe that paying a tribute to the folks who wear these three uniforms (police, fire and military) is most important and they should not be put up to ridicule like cops are these days or soldiers forgotten, or we’d be in a real world of mess without them,’’ he said.