SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
COAL GROVE, Ohio — A project four years in the making — honoring one little southern Ohio town’s more than a century of service and sacrifice for its country — has finally come to fruition as Coal Grove’s newest and most meaningful landmark.
Standing 6 feet tall and cast by renowned sculptor Alan Cottrill of Zanesville, Ohio, the Student-Soldier Memorial Statue was installed outside Dawson-Bryant High School Thursday afternoon. The statue will be dedicated officially with a public ceremony and reception at 2 p.m. Sunday at the school.
The brainchild of DBHS Principal Dean Mader, thestatue honors the small Lawrence County community’s deep roots in military service stretching to virtually every conflict the United States has fought.
“It seems like every year we have five to 10 students that go off to the military,” said Derek Parsons, who teaches history at Dawson-Bryant and helped organize construction efforts. “We feel like we have such a tradition here and in our region that we needed to pay tribute to it.”
That tradition is evident even in the school district’s name, which since 1925 has jointly honored Coal Grove natives Homer Dawson and Curtis Bryant, who in 1918 were killed in action during World War I. Several more lost their lives in the wars to follow, most recently in 2010 when U.S. Army Sgt. Justin Allen was killed in action serving in Afghanistan.
The statue depicts a student dressed for graduation, but wearing combat boots beneath his cap and gown. A folded American flag is cradled to his chest in his right hand, and raised in his left hand is a yearbook — created as a composite of the yearbooks from the 1960s to honor the handful killed in Vietnam, and of the early 2000s in recognition of Allen’s school years.
The statue stands on a mound of helmets styled from different war eras, which were sculpted and bronzed by current Dawson-Bryant art students. The helmets took students three to four months to create, but offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to contribute to their hometown’s history.
“It took a while but it was completely worth it in the end,” said junior Abby Bloomfield, who designed the Vietnam helmet in her Art I class. “I walked into that class thinking I was just going to learn how to draw cubes, and I got to help make this amazing thing.
“We’re a small town, but we’ve got a big heart. It’s insane to go through all this, but it’s worth it.”
Cottrill, who designed and sculpted the statue, has a little bit more experience in the craft. An Ohio native, Cottrill has produced such public works as the statues of Olympian Jesse Owens and legendary football coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State University in Columbus, as well as the statue of Thomas Edison that represents Ohio in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.
The entire project cost around $55,000 — a steep discount from Cottrill’s normal commissions, Parsons added — funded through years of school fundraising, selling everything from candles to Christmas ornaments, supplemented by simple donations from the community.
“We’ve had everything from $1 to $100 donations come in, and it’s all been overwhelming to say the least,” Parsons said. “Everyone was on board, and it really has been humbling to see people get behind us and morally and financially support this.”
The statue stands just outside Dawson-Bryant’s school library, roughly halfway between the high school and the adjacent middle school.
A plaque honoring those who made the project possible will also be installed.
Dawson-Bryant High School is located at 1 Hornet Lane in Coal Grove.
“We feel like we have such a tradition here and in our region that we needed to pay tribute to it.”
Derek Parsons teacher at Dawson-Bryant High School