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Larger-than-life bronze sculpture of legendary Marine "Chesty" Puller goes up at Marine Corps museum
Date published: 10/24/2012
By RUSTY DENNEN
Against a steel-blue sky, a giant crane finally lifted the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller to its place on a slab of stone a few hundred yards from the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The transfer Tuesday of the 1,000- pound statue of the Marine icon was supposed to have been a simple operation. But in art, as sometimes in the Corps, the situation got a little more complicated.
Two three-quarter-inch holes that a contractor was supposed to have drilled in the top of the stone pedestal--to receive metal stabilizing pins on the base of the statue--had been forgotten.
Pennsylvania sculptor Terry Jones, who had seen to practically every detail in the planning, production and transfer of the statue, was incredulous.
"There's no holes!" he said. But not to worry--a large drill and bits were quickly secured, and it was mission accomplished. The likeness of Puller, the most decorated Marine, who died in 1971, was pointing the way to the museum and posterity.
The statue, in the museum's Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, will have a formal dedication Nov. 12.
Among those on hand for the statue-raising was retired Lt. Gen Robert R. Blackman Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which oversees the museum off Interstate 95 in Triangle.
"Chesty Puller is, perhaps, the most iconic of Marines. To this day, at Parris Island and San Diego, before recruits have lights-out, they recite in unison, 'Good night, Chesty, wherever you are,'" he said.
New Marines attend boot camp at the South Carolina and California bases.
"So Chesty Puller lives with all Marines, all the time. This magnificent statue is really important to us, in terms of preserving the history, tradition and culture of the Marine Corps."
Before the stone pedestal was hoisted into place, vials of sand and soil from Korea to Haiti--where Puller had fought--were emptied into the space beneath it.
Blackman said the museum and heritage center are not intended to honor individual Marines, but Puller and a few others of legendary stature--Gen. John A. Lejeune, Gunnery Sgt. Manilla John Basilone and Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly--are exceptions.
Lt. Gen Lewis "Chesty" Puller is widely regarded as the most decorated Marine. He attended Virginia Military Institute and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1918.
He served all over the world for 37 years until his retirement in 1955. In addition to his five Navy Crosses, he was awarded dozens more medals. Among them: the Distinguished Service Cross (the Army equivalent of the Navy Cross), an Army Silver Star, two Legion of Merit medals with "V" device and multiple Bronze Stars for valor.
Puller died in 1971 in Hampton. He's buried at Christ Church near Urbanna.
Terry Jones, according to his website, has been a professional sculptor since 1968. He studied at the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. For 16 years, he sculpted bas-relief coins and medals, and expanded his works to small sculptures and monumental works. Read more about the artist at terryjonessculpture.com.