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Cedar Park City Council rejects Vietnam War veteran statue over diversity concerns

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The Cedar Park City Council rejected a plan for a new Veteran’s Memorial Park statue at its Feb. 8 meeting. Council members Anne Duffy and Heather Jefts said it’s time for more women to be represented in the city’s military service memorials.

The 6-0 vote to reject the statue design by artist Matt Glenn brought to an end a months-long discussion of diversity in city war memorials.

The city erected statues of a World War I Army soldier and a World War II Naval commander in the park in 2016. When a third statue of a male Marine from the Korean War came up for approval last summer, Place 6 Council Member Kristyne Bollier was among the votes in favor. But she had reservations. Bollier was absent during the Feb. 15 meeting early due to illness and did not vote on the Vietnam War statue. 

 “I would like to see at some point statues with women who have served,” Bollier said. “There’s definitely a lack of representation there, whether it’s nurses or whatever. I would like to see that coming out of the PACE board.”

The Parks, Arts and Community Enrichment Board has seven members and is charged with recommending how the council spends public art funds. The board has a budget of about $130,000 this year; the proposed Vietnam War statue has a price tag of $77,800.

Thursday night, Place 3 Council Member Anne Duffy, a Navy veteran, and Place 5 Council Member Heather Jefts objected to the proposed Vietnam War statue showing two male Army soldiers.

“I appreciate the work done by the PACE board, and I appreciate having an African-American soldier in the rendering,” Duffy said. “But where are the women?”

Duffy said concerns she shares with Bollier and Jefts about including women in war memorials had “fallen on deaf ears” with PACE appointees.

“Women have participated in uniform in all military campaigns,” Duffy said.  “What kind of a depiction would represent all the women who served? It matters to women who have served.”

“Waiting for this to happen further down the road is too long,” Jefts said. “Our memorial is to all the people who served, not just the men who served.”

PACE board members began discussing ideas for the Vietnam War statue in September. Board Chairman Kathleen Harmon said she visited the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) museum in Sweetwater to get ideas for portraying women in uniform. The WASP were female pilots that volunteered to deliver newly built aircraft to training schools in the South after Pearl Harbor.

In October, the board picked 10 photos  from more than two dozen collected by Harmon to show artist Matt Glenn for creative inspiration. The board’s top choice showed a female helicopter pilot from the Italian military.

Glenn has designed and built each of the statues selected by the council to represent U.S. military conflicts. The city paid him $38,900 for the Korean War piece; the estimate for the Vietnam War design was $77,800.

Board members disagreed on how women could be included in a statue intended to portray combat action in Vietnam.

“I have an issue with a representation of the Vietnam War being a non-combatant,” said Place 2 Board Member Carl Asbeck. “It would be more appropriate to represent combatants in that time frame.”

Asbeck said it would be difficult to include women who served as nurses or in other support roles in the same scene as soldiers in fighting action.

Place 5 Board Member Shellie McMahon suggested the statue could include a military surgical nurse. Place 1 Board Member Virginia Hernandez said during the board’s Nov. 13 meeting that diversity was difficult to show in a bronze statue.

The board asked for a revision of the artist’s drawing so that the African-American soldier’s helmet was removed and his hair was visible. With the council’s “no” vote last week, this version of the statue is now back before the PACE board for review at its March meeting.

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