BRADENTON -- Iwo Jima Memorial project promoters discussed plans with a Manatee County nonprofit Wednesday at the Renaissance on Ninth for bringing the statue to Bradenton.
The Manatee County chapter of Sertoma invited promoters, Gregg Anderson and Kevin Henault, to attend the board meeting to discuss a possible partnership to acquire the original 12½-foot-tall Iwo Jima memorial statue.
Anderson, owner of Digital Image Business Solutions, has been working with Veteran Air owner, Henault, to raise $1.2 million to purchase the memorial, which is in New York.
"It's sitting in storage right now and no one can see it," said Henault.
Anderson and Henault initially worked with Sarasota's Public Art Foundation to acquire the statue, but the project was nixed. However, the two still thought the memorial's home should be in Manatee or Sarasota county.
Anderson and Henault said their top priority is securing the statue and they are giving themselves 18 months to do so as opposed to the Nov. 10 deadline Sarasota set.
"Eighteen months is a realistic time frame for us," said Anderson.
Anderson also said they need a letter-of-intent approved by the memorial's owner. They hope to have it by July 19.
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.
Anderson said he project will garner national and international support through Internet marketing to help raise funds to acquire the statue.
The promoters want the statue placed somewhere in Manatee County because of the large veteran population in the area. Anderson said the memorial could be a tourist attraction.
"We see Manatee and Sarasota as a destination," said Anderson during the board meeting. "Not everyone gets to Arlington."
Manatee County Sertoma President William Padelford said the group will discuss the project with Sertoma National, which has a veteran's support program.
"It kind of fits in with Sertoma on a larger scale," said Padelford.
In addition to wanting to bring the memorial to the Manatee and Sarasota County area, the project also wants to the purchase World War II memorabilia and set up a museum that could supplement the statue. The effort will cost an estimated $5 million to complete.
"We didn't know it would take on a life of its own, but we are excited," said Henault.
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.