Veterans Honored At The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden Weed, Ca
By Melissa Wynn
Under the protective majesty of Mount Shasta sits a somber place of shocking beauty dedicated to those that gave their lives in war and those that continue to serve our country in the
Military Armed Forces. This Living Memorial Sculpture Garden(LMSG) rests along the mountain’s northwestern slope,13 miles north of Weed, CA on Hwy 97 in Siskiyou County.
Situated on 136 acres of land provided by the United States Forest Service, this garden of remembrance and healing includes more than 90,000 trees, also provided by the USFS, planted by volunteering families, elementary and high school children, agriculture classes, church groups, 4H clubs, as well as members of organizations such as C.A.T.T.L.E., and Veterans groups, such as the 41st Division VFW, the American Legion, and AMVETS.
As a few friends and I wandered through this hand planted forest, 12 larger-than-life, widely spaced metal sculptures, created by artist and Vietnam War Veteran Dennis Smith, took us on an intensely emotional journey that forever changed my level of understanding of the deep, widespread and lasting effects of war on those who experience it first hand. Never before have I encountered a work of art that literally brought me to tears. Those faceless sculptures, executed in 14 gauge steel and 3/16” welding rod spoke to me of tortured souls, lives lost and saved, and a desperate cry for mercy in a deeply touching way. Somehow, for me, the lack of defined facial features gave them the face of every soldier, pilot, medic, nurse and family member throughout history instead of no face at all. Dennis Smith has masterfully captured the emotions of each moment frozen in time in his masterpieces in way that only someone who actually felt those emotions could, especially using a medium as seemingly cold and lifeless as metal. As you walk around these three dimensional works of art each angle offers another hint of motion or a new feeling that brings it to life again in whole new way.
According to the LMSG website “Dennis Smith was born in Logan, Utah. He grew up in Ventura, California, where he attended Ventura College for three semesters, as an art major, before joining the Marine Corps in February 1966.
As a Marine, he served one tour in Vietnam between October 1967 and November 1968, all 13 months with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment (B1/26).
Six months into his tour, he was promoted to Sergeant, where he served during the Battle of Khe Sanh. After Khe Sanh, he became 3rd Platoon Guide, then Weapons Platoon Commander before returning to the United States.
A year after his discharge, he entered the Brooks Institute of Fine Art in Santa Barbara, where he studied between 1969 and 1971. Thereafter, he opened a studio in Ventura for a couple of years, where he met a neighbor and silversmith, Ric Delugo.
In early 1988, Ric Delugo contacted him about the LMSG concept. Dennis had been contemplating a similar vision, and decided to join Delugo on the LMSG project. Soon thereafter, he arrived in Siskiyou County with $6 in his pocket, and began to work with DeLugo and the Forest Service.
For Dennis Smith the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden is about “War & The Effects of War. “However, everyone comes with his or her own personal story that blends and interacts with the LMSG.”
Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day special events are held at the LMSG. The names of U.S. & Allied veterans are added to the granite clad “Hot LZ Memorial Wall” that flanks the main entry area. Applications are available online at www.weedlmsg.org to have the name of an honorably discharged veteran added to the wall. A bronze plaque in the middle of the Wall honors Lieutenant Colonel Ace Alan Cozzalio of the U.S. Army, a decorated helicopter pilot, and a founding member of the LMSG. On May 5, 1993, a Memorial Service was held for him at the LMSG. After the service several donations given in his memory enabled planning the Hot LZ Wall.
The Wall was designed and constructed by a team led by Jim Leach, and the helicopter sculpture perched atop the Wall was brought to life by the dreams of Jim Leach and the amazing artistry of Dennis Smith.
Another granite wall , known as the Gene Breceda Sponsorship Wall, bears the names of the generous members that donate funds and their time to maintain this glorious garden. Those interested in donating or becoming a member can visit the LMSG website, www.weedlmsg.org.
This Veterans Day, November 11, 2016, brings the next ceremony to LMSG. Veterans, active military members, families and friends will once again gather to honor, memorialize, reflect, reconcile and heal in this special place. Come join them and pay homage to the brave men and women who have protected and continue to protect us, our rights, our freedoms and our precious homeland.
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