Fort Smith Veterans Group Out $28,000 For Statue That Was Never Built

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A business fire in Oklahoma on December 7, 2012 is the reason the Fort Smith National Cemetery won't have a statue honoring its veterans for Veteran's Day of 2014.

Robert Cravens is the President of the River Valley Veterans National Cemetery Association and said the group spent years fundraising in the River Valley for the statue. The blueprints for the statue show it as a kneeling Korean-era soldier praying to his fallen comrades.

"The monument company that was building our statue caught fire and burnt to the ground and we lost our mold," Cravens said, "We are going to be waiting another six to eight months to get this new mold built."

Treasurer Bucky Castillo said they knew about the fire when it happened in 2012, but they were still under the assumption the project would be done by Veteran's Day in 2013. He said when that deadline passed, they hoped it would be completed by November 11 of this year.

Castillo said they didn't know they wouldn't be getting the statue this year, or even at all, until they called the shop in March of 2014. He said the artisan shop that caught fire was under-insured, meaning the $28,000 the RVVNCA raised to fund the project is gone.

"We're still about $50,000 short of our goal, but it should be and we want it to be set by November 11, 2015," Cravens said.

Castillo said they still plan on sticking with the original sculptor to make the statue if all goes according to plan, and are hoping to see the statue in real life next year.

The Boomerang Diner in Fort Smith helped get the fundraising campaign off the ground Friday by presenting the RVVNCA a check for roughly 20% of what's needed.

If you are interested in donating, the RVVNCA is accepting checks by mail to PO Box 5263, Fort Smith Arkansas 72913. Treasurer Bucky Castillo said people can also call him for more information on the project and how to get involved at (479) 883-6534. He also said to check out their Facebook page for updates.