Female statue joins '‘United by Sacrifice' memorial in Hawaii
October 7, 2016
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — A statue representing the thousands of women who have served in Hawaii’s 25th Infantry Division was unveiled Thursday to a crowd that included more than 300 Tropic Lightning veterans.
The soldier, wearing attire from the first years of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, holds a helmet to her chest. Her slightly downcast eyes appear anguished as they gaze at a battlefield cross.
The figure is flanked by four male statues representing the major conflicts 25th ID has participated in since it was established in 1941: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The memorial, by Hawaii-based sculptor Lynn Weiler Liverton, is called “United by Sacrifice.” The unveiling took place during Tropic Lightning Week, commemorating 25th ID’s 75th anniversary.
“We’ve got one from each of the major conflicts, but a big portion of our division has been missing — the women who have served in the 25th ID for the past three-quarters of a century,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who commands the division, said at the ceremony. “Today we will unveil a statue of a female Tropic Lightning soldier, and she will stand as testament to the leadership, talent, service and blood that women have contributed to our nation’s defense.”
More than 10,000 women have deployed with 25th ID since 9/11.
Also during the ceremony, a memorial stone was emplaced near the statues in honor of Sgt. Maj. Barbaralien Banks, the first woman with the 25th to die during Operation Enduring Freedom. The 41-year-old Louisiana native was killed in a Chinook crash along with 14 others on April 6, 2005.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii National Guard who deployed in Iraq, said the female statue represents “not only our sisters who served and sacrificed in the 25th, but for our sisters who have served and sacrificed throughout our military today, those who have come before us and those who will come after us.”
Gabbard also said the statue reminded her of all the women she’d served with.
“You know, the contributions of our women in the military are to this day still not known enough or recognized enough,” she said. “Over 280,000 women have deployed and served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. They have not only effectively served in combat, some have earned some of our nation’s most prestigious awards for their leadership, skills, bravery and courage, serving in many different roles, including close-quarters combat.”
As the U.S. military continues its integration of women into combat units, Gabbard said “it’s important for us to recognize that this isn’t just an evolution in creating more opportunities for our female warriors, but it actually honors the sacrifices that our women in uniform have made for so long.”
Duplicates of the statues are also installed at the U.S. National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Ga., and in a small town in Michigan. Funding for the statues at Schofield Barracks was raised by 25th ID veterans.
Liverton, the sculptor, told the audience it was fitting that one of the female statues was at Fort Benning when the first of two women graduated from the Army’s Ranger school there last year.
“There’s only one statue of a woman in combat, and that’s her,” Liverton said as she motioned toward the monument. “The only other memorial that anyone really knows about is the nurses for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.”
Liverton spent about 11 months researching, designing and creating each figure for “United by Sacrifice.”
She is a “stickler for detail” regarding the what, where and how of equipment, weapons and uniforms depicted in the statues. Such accuracy dispels the distraction of flaws, she said.
“People see the emotion; they see the sacrifice,” she said. “I want it to all be about the emotion.”
That’s a reaction she shares when she’s in her studio.
“It is a sort of weird, divine thing that happens when I’m in there [working] on the face,” she said. “And I save the eyes for last because I can’t take it. I can’t have that emotion while I’m doing the rest of it. I have to leave that until the very last thing. When the eyes are in, I feel like I can let go. I can let it be what it’s going to be.”
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