KSLA Salutes: The journey to honor our female veterans
“I want people to know about how women served and what we did and where we were and the significant contributions that we’ve made to the freedom of this country”
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) — It was 2018 when KSLA News 12 first spoke to retired Air Force Master Sgt. Sandy Franks about the idea of placing a 6-foot-tall, bronze monument of a uniformed woman in front of the Bossier City Municipal Complex.
“I want people to know about how women served and what we did and where we were and the significant contributions that we’ve made to the freedom of this country," Franks said then. “We’re all in battle dress uniforms now, all five services. And that’s what we chose to dress her in with a weapon over her shoulder holding her helmet. When you look at her, you don’t know what her race is; she has no name tag on; she has no rank. They will look at her and realize what women in the military have done for this country. That we serve side by side with our male counterparts, that we contributed and we served.”
In reality, the gears already had been in motion for a year. The idea for the monument came about in 2017 after the nonprofit Women Veterans of the ArkLaTex was formed, Franks said. “We just said, you know, there are just not enough monuments to women in this country.
“We did some research. And from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the Southern part of the United States, there is one in Tulsa. We didn’t find anymore in this part of country. We thought that this just can’t be right. That’s how the idea came. We knew we needed to do this. If somebody else isn’t going to honor us, we were going to do it ourselves.”
The group hit the ground running and hired artist Jerry Gorum to create its monument.
“He had done military statues before but not a woman military statue," Franks said. "He would come to us with the model, we would make changes; he would come back and we would make changes. He was determined that we were going to have that statue exactly as we wanted her.”
Sadly, tragedy struck. Gorum was diagnosed with bone cancer and passed away in March 2018. But he had a student — Jerry Jones.
“He called and asked January of ’18 if I would come over because he was done chemo and radiation, would I come over and help him complete what he knew was going to be his last commission," Jones recalled in 2019.
Jones reached out to the organization and asked if he could take on the project and he did.
Franks said the completed clay statue was breathtaking when she saw it for the first time. “I can’t even almost explain. You know the feeling in your heart when you’re working so hard toward something and it’s going to be so meaningful for so many people.
"To see her, it was overwhelming.”
The statue then was taken to a foundry in Houston to be transformed from clay to bronze before being brought to Bossier City.
The unveiling ceremony was pushed back due to COVID-19. But finally, this Veterans Day, she was shown to the public.
“The statue says that it is dedicated to those who have, those who are and those who will serve our great nation," Franks said. "What’s important for this is that when young women who see this statue, even though they might not go in the military, they need to understand they can do anything they put their mind to.
"You have to have that will and you have to have that stamina and that courage. And that’s really what it takes.”
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