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Sculptor recounts saga of W.Va. veterans memorial

Charleston Gazette photo by Lawrence Pierce  It took sculptor Joe Mullins more than 10 years to see the West Virginia Veterans Memorial completed. The monument honors state service members killed in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Charleston Gazette photo by Lawrence Pierce
It took sculptor Joe Mullins more than 10 years to see the West Virginia Veterans Memorial completed. The monument honors state service members killed in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For Charleston sculptor Joe Mullins, building a memorial to honor West Virginia’s war dead turned out to be a more than 10-year battle.

Mullins recounted the sometimes tumultuous history of the West Virginia Veterans Memorial Monday at a meeting of the Charleston Rotary.

The state war memorial, containing the names of more than 10,000 West Virginians who died in the nation’s first four wars of the 20th century, began as an idea to build a tribute to the state’s Vietnam veterans.

“Like all good stories, it starts with a bunch of drunks in a bar,” Mullins said. But the sentiment and intent were real, and the state Legislature set up a commission to build a Vietnam memorial.

Mullins said plans changed when former Gov. Arch A. Moore insisted that the state’s World War II veterans be honored before he would give his blessing to a Vietnam memorial. So, what was originally envisioned as a tribute to the 36,578 West Virginians who served in Vietnam became a memorial to those who died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Mullins’ design of four monoliths each containing a niche for a sculpture of a U.S. service member beat out 179 other proposals…

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