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"It will be the biggest in FL": Veterans raise money for Vietnam sculpture

A group of Marco Island veterans have started to raise money for a new sculpture that will honor veterans who fought in the Vietnam War.
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Posted at 5:28 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 17:51:04-04

MARCO ISLAND, Fla — A group of Marco Island veterans have started to raise money for a new sculpture that will honor veterans who fought in the Vietnam War. They say the structure will be one of the biggest Vietnam memorials in the state.

On April 22, the Marco Island city council approved the sculpture's installation by a 7-0 vote.

The sculpture, which will be funded, managed, and installed by American Legion Post 404, will stand approximately 26 feet wide and 10-11 feet tall.

It will feature individual bronze figures, including a military dog.

Lee Rubenstein, the current commander of the group, says the structure will represent the diverse backgrounds of those who served in Vietnam.

"We have an American Indian, we have an African American nurse, we have a Hispanic, we have an Anglo, and we have another Hispanic, and we have a beautiful German Shepherd dog," Rubenstein explained.

"We've been working on this for at least 4 years," added Yvette Benarroch, a veteran who is the group's youngest member.

Terry Kehoe, a Vietnam War dog handler, emphasizes that the memorial will honor not only fellow servicemen but also the dogs that stood by their side and were later left behind.

"I had to leave my dog, my partner, the guy that saved my life. I had to leave him in Vietnam. That hurt, I still deal with that today," Kehoe said.

"Having something that is dedicated to not just Vietnam veterans but all veterans is so important," he added.

Approximately 4,000 dogs served in the Vietnam War leading patrols with their handlers. These dogs are credited with saving more than 10,000 lives, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Joe Batte, who also served during Vietnam, explained that the sculptures will help highlight to the general public the sacrifices made by the veterans who served.

"It's a tremendous tribute to our fellow veterans to be able to have a statue that will be here forever, and every time people walk by here they'll remember," Batte says.

American Legion Post 404 has already started fundraising for the bronze sculpture. It will be made in California and shipped to Marco Island.

They estimate the project will take 1-2 years and cost between $500,000 and $600,000.