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Loveland sculptor to reveal progress on sculpture for Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial

Night ViewDesert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial.jpg
Posted at 1:44 PM, Sep 12, 2023

LOVELAND, Colo. — A Loveland sculptor and U.S. Army veteran will soon reveal his progress on a sculpture that, once complete, will be an integral part of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Since 2018, Robert J. Eccleston had been working in his Loveland studio to construct two raptors — an eagle and a falcon — using a lost-wax process, which uses molten metal and molds. The raptors are part of the memorial's composition and will be installed along an inside curve.

Raptor Sculpture_National Desert Storm Memorial Association

When the raptor sculptures are completed, they will be transported from Loveland to Washington, D.C., where it will be installed near the Lincoln and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, abutting the National Mall, as part of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial, according to the National Desert Storm Memorial Association (NDSMA).

Eccleston is one of several sculptors on the memorial's design team.

Night ViewDesert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial.jpg
The National Desert Storm Memorial Association provided this look at the memorial, which is expected to be completed in 2025. The raptors are being constructed by a Loveland artist.

"My prediction personally is that these birds are going to become iconic and are going to be a main attraction for future visitors to the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial in Washington, D.C.," Scott C. Stump, CEO and president of the NDSMA, said in a 2022 video from the association.

He said Eccleston is a remarkable artist and is excited for his talent to be prominently displayed at the national park.

Eccleston served as an Infantry CPT. in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School, where he taught military mountaineering and survival skills to all branches of the military, according to his website. He studied sculpture in his spare time and decided to pursue it as a career in 1993.

"Unlike a normal sculpture, I had to learn about how raptors fly and how they think in order to sculpt the eagle and the falcon in a way that expresses that power and leadership of the American bald eagle and the liberation and freedom that represents the saker falcon of Kuwait," Eccleston said.

He said worked with a local foundation focused on raptors to understand the birds' biology so the sculptures honors both birds to their full extent. That included bringing live birds and their feathers into his studio.

"Ninety percent of the time, you have to go off of a photography, so to have. A live specimen in front of me — moving around, seeing the volume of the head, how the feathers lay — is invaluable because I can see that and commit to memory as well as take a photograph," he said.

NDSMA said Eccleston is set to complete the raptor sculptures in late 2024 or early 2025. It will then be transported to Washington, D.C. and installed on the memorial a few weeks before a dedication ceremony.

Loveland sculptor to reveal progress on sculpture for Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial

On Sept. 16, the NDSMA's all-veteran board of directors will host a private event in Loveland to showcase Eccleston's progress.

"The dedication and artistic talent displayed by Robert Eccleston in creating the raptors sculpture for the memorial is truly commendable," said John Keene, state commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Colorado. "As veterans, we recognize the importance of commemorating the brave men and women who served during the Gulf War. Being a Desert Storm veteran myself, I find special meaning in the fact that such an important element of the memorial is coming from my state. The Department of Colorado VFW stands alongside the nation in eager anticipation of the unveiling of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial."

This project began to pick up speed after the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously authorized the memorial's construction by a vote of 370-0 in May 2014. At the end of that year, former President Barack Obama signed the law authorizing the build. In March 2017, former president Donald Trump signed a bill authorizing the memorial to be built near the National Mall in Washington D.C. at an Area-1 location, according to the association.

A little over a year later, the Commission of Fine Arts approved a site for the memorial, which was the final step in the site selection process.

National Desert Storm War Memorial Association_site approval map

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial, which honors the service and sacrifices of the armed forces who served in support of Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield, was held on July 14, 2022.

Its expected completion date is in the spring of 2025.

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