Oct. 07, 2020
Time and time again, people ask us how we come up with designs. We don't – every single design that we create is done by suggestion. When we get enough suggestions for a particular design, it gets done. We contact someone in the military for assistance: technical info, current uniform, pose suggestions – the works. We want to be sure that the piece is 100% accurate…or at least as close as humanly possible.
When the technical side is handled, that when we create the 'whistles and bells', the additions that make it a generational award. What's a generational award? It is something that is customized and so personal that it becomes part of a family's history. It gets passed down to the children, and eventually, the grandchildren and so forth. It depicts the job that the recipient did in gritty detail. These 'whistle and bells' include things like coin holders, places to attach a patch or a pin, a place to display a photo – all those little things that add up to something much bigger than just the sum.
Of course, when we start any new design, there's always a good story behind it. I decided that I should share these. Some are funny, some are sad, some are amazing -- and some will just plain break your heart. I decided to start out with a funny one.
Back in 1998, one of the big military hospitals called me out of the blue one day. "Rod," the woman said, "I really need an updated medic. The one that we're currently using is outdated, I mean really outdated…like, WW2." I was a little surprised, to say the least. I mean, medics are practically treated like demi-gods. I thought for sure that there would be dozens of medic statues. Not so, it seemed. After a long discussion, I agreed that I'd do one and that it would be a
part of our standard in-stock line. I made a few phone calls to Fort Carson. I finally got a hold of a staff sergeant. I explained what I was doing and requested his assistance. I needed to get as much info as he could provide, along with photos of the current uniform. He enthusiastically agreed, with the condition that I put "Evans" on the helmet (Evans was the name of a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Donald J. Evans was a combat medic during Viet Nam. Google him sometime!). I agreed to use the name Evans. Somehow, it just seemed fitting that a sculptor in Colorado base his medic design on a hero stationed at Ft. Carson.
We set up a time to meet at a local trophy shop. I arrived a bit early and chatted with the owners of the shop. Two men arrived soon afterwards. Both gentlemen explained some of the technical aspects: the radio, the equipment, etc. Then, they proceeded to explain the procedure for stabilizing a patient in the middle of combat. They both explained to me things like how the patient's hand is open when he or she is unconscious and how the legs are elevated to prevent shock. They told me all the little details that only medics know. At that point, one of them eagerly decided to show me. He immediately got on the floor, unbuttoned his shirt, unbuttoned his pants, crossed his ankles, and placed them on a helmet to elevate them. Soooo…there I was, camera in hand…with a man on his back in front me…semi-undressed. I thought for sure, FOR SURE a group of women would walk in at any moment! How do you explain taking photos of a man with his shirt and pants undone?? Would I get beaten over the head with a purse and called a pervert?! Or would someone just think I was the typical 'Libertine" artist? I quickly took the photos, and then helped the soldier up so that he could button up.
I thanked the gentlemen for their help. As we were going over the final details, we all 3 agreed that the statue would depict the patient with a sucking chest wound. I also suggested a detachable plate that they could attach a patch or souvenir to.
Dustoff has consistently been a solid performer. We've had medics literally from all over the world tell us their stories about when they received it. One medic attached the red smoke grenade pin to the detachable plate. It was literally his first time in combat in Iraq; he was so pumped on adrenaline, that when he pulled the pin for the smoke grenade (calling dustoff), he didn't realize that he gripped it so tightly, it imbedded into his hand, just under the skin. I've also had another medic tell me that he had a tuft of camel hair attached to his plaque. I'm not going to go into that story! But the stories are so good, and the piece has been so successful, I also did a female version. I do NOT and will not forget our women in combat.
Sculpting aside, the subject matter, the pose, the detail – it truly shows what our military medics do and experience: grace under pressure. I developed a new-found and deep respect for the men and women who take on this difficult job.
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