Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Completed A Soldier's Journey Is on Its Way Home to America

Protective Coating Applied & Final Loading

After the last finishing touches at the Pangolin Editions foundry in the UK, including the application of a protective patina by sculptor Sabin Howard, the sculpture A Soldiers Journey has been disassembled and begun its trip back to the United States for installation at the National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC. Packed into several shipping containers at the foundry (bottom), the sculpture, like the World War I Doughboys it portrays, will cross the Atlantic by ship. Once back "over here" the sculpture will be brought to the nation's capitol, reassembled on its waiting pedestal at the memorial site, and presented to the nation by the "First Illumination" event on 13 September 2024. When in place at the memorial, the sculpture will be the largest freestanding high-relief bronze in the Western Hemisphere.

Artist Howard Sabin at an Early Phase of the Project

Sabin Howard, the sculptor, describes his concept: 

The figures are super dynamic and they’re all emotional, telling a story about a father, a soldier, and an allegory of the United States.

You walk from left to right and the story unfolds [in five stages].

  • In the departure, the soldier’s daughter hand him his helmet, while his wife touches him with a restraining arm, as if to hold him back as he answers the call to battle— representing the debate over American involvement in the war. In the initiation, the soldier joins the parade to war, as the United States joins the epic battle in Europe.
  • The parade, and the work as a whole, includes all the ethnic groups who answered their country’s call.

  • In the middle scene, the ordeal, the parade devolves into the tension before the charge and then the tumult of desperate and violent combat. At the center, our hero calls his comrades into battle, illustrating the famous American battle cry from Belleau Wood: “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

  • The aftermath depicts the physical and mental wounds of the fighters. Here are represented American women who served at home and on the fighting front. Here the turbulent, left-to-right narrative pauses, as the hero stops and looks directly at the viewer. The soldier’s look of shock and loss—the thousand-yard stare—along with the empty helmets piled at his feet, invite the viewer to stop and contemplate with him the costs of war.

  • In the return, the soldier rejoins the homecoming parade. One figure look back with pride, while a flag bearer leads the country forward into “the American century.” Our soldier returns home and hands his helmet back to his daughter. She looks into the helmet and sees World War II, the war that will bring America back to Europe little more than 20 years later.

How the Sculpture Will Appear at the 
World War One National Memorial
(Display=580px Click to View 1200px)

Thanks to the Doughboy Foundation for making most of the above information available.  MH

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