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'Freedom Eagle' spreads its wings at GRCC
Green River Community College honored armed service members with the Day of Dedication and the unveiling of the "Freedom Eagle" sculpture on campus last week.
The metal sculpture of an eagle in flight honors the courage and sacrifice of those who have served and those who are serving in the military today, project leaders explained.
Metal sculptor Greg Bartol and welding technology instructor Scott Schreiber designed and spearheaded the manufacturing of the sculpture, a project that was set in motion by the college's Veterans Council.
The sculpture, which stands proudly outside the Holman Library, also bears a plaque honoring the armed forces. Tom Tagliente, head of the GRCC Manufacturing Department, with students Dave Kosterman and Tina Shay, designed and made the plaque.
"This project, its inception and dedication was a collaborative effort of the Veterans Council and the two departments," said Debbie Lynes, a Veterans Council member and program support supervisor for student services. "They came up with the idea of having something on campus. The idea of the eagle reflected the creative efforts of the welding department, and the plaque was from the manufacturing department.
"I had the honor of acting as liaison between the counsel and the departments, but this was truly an amazing group effort," Lynes added. "This just shows the heart we share for our servicemen and women and their families."
Honoring veterans is something personally important to Lynes.
"My husband served 5 1/2 years in the Coast Guard. My son, who is 21, is in the Air Force," she said.
For Bartol, a locally renowned metal sculpture artist who also volunteers with the college's welding program, the project was an opportunity to honor veterans and stretch his wings artistically.
"I've done quite a few birds, from sparrows and swallows, ravens and herons," he said. "I even did a peacock for the Auburn Downtown Art Walk. But I'd never welded an eagle before, so I jumped at the chance."
Bartol was approached by the veterans group to submit a proposal for a piece of art for Memorial Day. He said the eagle took two weeks to finish.
"If you don't eat and don't sleep, you can get a lot done in a week," he said. "I became, not compulsive, but somebody who really wanted to do it. It just got more fun the further along I got."
Bartol said it was an honor to do the sculpture.
"Almost every artist feels like ravens and eagles are up there in esteem," he said. "Capturing that became a challenge. The part I really enjoyed was getting to the point where I could look it in the eye. How often do you get a chance to stare into the eyes of an eagle?"
The eagle is a welcomed, symbolic addition to the campus.
"Every time I look at it, I think it's more beautiful," Lynes said. "We're just so excited about what it represents. We're in awe of just the sentiment."