Bradenton company lobbies for Iwo Jima memorial

jtate@bradenton.comJuly 3, 2013 

BRADENTON -- One day after Sarasota nixed the project, the owner of Veteran Air Conditioning & Heating of Bradenton wants city officials to consider bringing the original 12½-foot-tall Iwo Jima Memorial to town.

Digital Images Business Solutions owner Gregg Anderson has been working with Veteran Air to raise the $1.5 million necessary to purchase the memorial, which is in storage in New York.

"We wanted to see if there is interest from Bradenton to support the acquisition of the statue," said Anderson.

Before Sarasota backed out, the statue was going to be placed near "Unconditional Surrender," the statue of a World War II sailor kissing a nurse, which is just off Sarasota Bay on U.S. 41.

Anderson requested a meeting for next week with Realize Bradenton and the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority to discuss placing the statue along the Riverwalk, but it was too early to tell Tuesday if a meeting would happen.

Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham declined comment because she wasn't familiar with the request when reached Tuesday afternoon by the Herald.

Dave Gustafson, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, is on vacation through next week and could not be reached.

A DDA workshop is scheduled July 9, but the memorial discussion was not yet on the agenda as of Tuesday evening, according to Karen Kyser, program administrator. The DDA administers a public art program for the city.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said he'd have to learn more about the project in order to make a decision on bringing the monument here. He said a possible location could be near the Veteran's Memorial.

Anderson said Veteran Air is in search of a 501(c3) nonprofit partner to manage funds raised and find a place to locate the iconic statue.

Anderson said a location in Bradenton or Manatee County is not concrete, however, he said places in the county are a good fit for the statue.

"We think it would be great asset to this overall marketplace," said Anderson.

"There are some places in Bradenton and Manatee County that are a natural fit."

Anderson said having an attraction like the Iwo Jima Memorial in Southwest Florida, where more than 400,000 veterans live, would make it destination for military visitors and residents.

The original Iwo Jima statue was used as a model for the 32-foot-tall bronze Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. The sculpture was designed by Felix de Weldon, who patterned it after the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press image of the Feb. 23, 1945, flag-raising by U.S. Marines and Navy Corpsman on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi.

The owner of the original Iwo Jima statue, Rodney Hilton Brown, tried to auction the piece in February, however, bids failed to reach his $1.8 million minimum.

Anderson said a webpage where people can donate online will be built. If the fund-raising goal is not met by Dec. 31, 2014, or if money collected exceeds the amount needed, excess funds will be donated to the Would Warriors Project.

"If unsuccessful by that time, then funds will be automatically given to Wounded Warriors," said Anderson.

"It's not only targeted at this project. This is about the veterans."

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.

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