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thedrifter
01-29-04, 05:19 AM
Gung-ho for Marine statue
OC Register ^ | 1/26/04 | Jim Radcliffe


Posted on 01/26/2004 6:33:18 PM PST by NormsRevenge


SAN CLEMENTE Sgt. Rob Elliott's square-jawed face isn't set in bronze yet, but the women weren't about to wait. A half-dozen just wanted to hug him, touch an arm, get a photograph with the U.S. Marine shortly after he was introduced as the model for a larger-than-life monument proposed for a bluff near the town's pier.

"I've never touched a statue before," some of them told the athletic Marine from Buffalo, Okla.

His wife, Katrina, stood back and watched.

"I thought it was kind of cute, corny," she recalled of the Memorial Day service that drew 600 people. "I think it was mostly out of appreciation."

On Sunday, a groundswell of support for the monument meant to honor Marines past and present continued to grow. Councilman Wayne Eggleston, who came up with the idea nearly two years ago while seeing monuments in Washington, D.C., shared his vision with owners of condominiums overlooking the statue site. They seemed to go for it.

"The very thought that the Marines will be between me and the rest of the world ... it makes me feel good," said Judith Schalick, 70, a 10-year resident of the Villa Grande complex.

"If the East Coast has the minuteman, why can't the West Coast have the dress blues? "I know the Air Force will be a little jealous," Schalick said, smiling. "But it's a Marine town, what can you say?"

Elliott's image, in the Corps' dress-blue uniform, would be frozen in a salute directed across a beach parking lot and toward American and Marine Corps flags flying above a pier restaurant.

"I'm very excited," said Elliott, 25, who instructs boot-camp graduates on infantry tactics at Camp Pendleton. "Just to represent them (the Marines), I don't know what words there are out there for that. It's an awesome feeling."

A nonprofit group, the Heritage of San Clemente Foundation, has raised $32,000 since November toward the projected $125,000 cost. Eggleston, the executive director, said the statue will be unveiled November 2005, the Marine Corps' 230th birthday. Eggleston and others want to tie even tighter the bond San Clemente has had for years with its next-door neighbor, Camp Pendleton, and its Marines who often shop and live in town.

Little opposition has surfaced, with most passers-by interviewed Sunday near the site supportive.

Sarah Donoghue, a 16-year-old surfer in town from the San Diego area for a high school surfing competition, however, didn't think a Marine monument made sense so close to the surf.

"I think people going to a beach are not into that they are more carefree," she said. "They should put it in Camp Pendleton, where they (the Marines) are."

Stephanie Dougherty, 37, didn't see it that way at all.

"People are giving their lives there should be something to recognize that," the San Clemente resident said. "And the base is right there."

This month, the City Council, acting as the redevelopment agency, voted to approve the plan that would put the larger-than-life bronze statue of the sergeant on a small plot owned by the agency. Eggleston did not vote, to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Eggleston was never in the military. But, he said, "they're part of our (city's) family. "We've had barbecues for them, we've had parades for them, but never a permanent reminder." When it came time to find a Marine to pose, the councilman asked two Marine buddies for candidates. Both suggested Elliott.

"I said I wanted a Marine who was classic-looking, big and, you know, good-looking," Eggleston said.

Elliott's bronze image, perhaps 6 feet 8 inches tall about five inches taller than he is in real life would rest on a 3-foot-high pedestal and surrounded by California native plants and a couple of benches. The foundation intends to pick a sculptor by mid-February, and Eggleston figures raising the rest of the money won't be difficult. He said he hasn't even approached businesses yet.

Posing for fund-raising brochures and making appearances in town to build support for the project takes Elliott away from his wife and three children. But beside doing their part for the community, the family is getting something nifty out of this.

"It's pretty neat," Katrina Elliott said, "knowing our kids and grandkids can go see it."

To see the Heritage of San Clemente Foundation's Web site,go to www.marinemonument.com


Sempers,

Roger
:marine: