Sculptor unveils Marine sculpture for Veterans Tribute

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Griendling's sixth and final sculpture will honor civil service workers

By Marty Finley

As Elizabethtown sculptor Rich Griendling sought models for sculptures he crafted for the Hardin County Veterans Tribute, he landed a mother and son combo.


Danny King stepped forward as the model of a U.S. Marine, the fifth sculpture Griendling unveiled Tuesday afternoon at his home studio. It joined a soldier, sailor, Air Force pilot and Coast Guardsman he has finished. The sixth and final sculpture pays tribute to civil service workers.

Griendling already had called upon King’s mother, Mary Jo, when he was looking for a statuesque blonde to assume the role of the pilot.

Mary Jo King said she recommended her son when Griendling told her he was looking for a man around 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds.

“I think I know someone who fits that description,” Mary Jo King recalled.

As she entered the studio, she was visibly impressed with Griendling’s handiwork.

“It looks great,” she told him. “It’s beautiful. It kind of looks like him too.”

She quickly snapped photographs of the sculpture she could send to her son, who was unable to attend the viewing.

Griendling molds generic faces for each sculpture but carefully chooses a human model for the bodies. He also researches each branch and uniform meticulously and contacts someone associated with the particular branch he’s working on to ensure he is staying true to the look and design.

“Every sculpture has its own quality,” Griendling said.

Griendling fashioned the U.S. Marine holding an M16 rifle. A revolver also is situated inside a holster draped around one of the Marine’s legs. Hardin County Veterans Tribute committee member Rik Hawkins’ nephew loaned Griendling a Marine uniform he could use in his research.

Griendling said there are similarities between the soldier and the Marine, but there are small details specifically involved with the Marine uniform, such as pocketing and the style of boots they wear.

“It’s just little things, but it’s the little things Marines would look for,” he said.

Griendling did face a challenge because he wanted to give the perception the Marine was walking off of its pedestal, which involved some degree of engineering.

Nearby, the sailor and Air Force pilot stood in the studio cast in bronze. The Marine will be sent to a Louisville foundry for bronzing in the next few weeks, which is roughly the same timeframe in which the Coast Guardsman should finish the bronzing process, he said.

Hawkins said it is exciting to see of the sculptures come to life in a process that has taken years to materialize. Hawkins last week said the committee has reached about 75 percent of the $550,000 needed in its fundraising efforts for the tribute. Griendling also encouraged those who want to have bricks or pavers laid at the tribute before the ceremony to purchase them soon.

Hawkins has said the group wants to land a high-profile speaker with military roots for the opening ceremony, throwing out U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as a possibility. Hawkins said the committee has held meetings regarding the ceremony to gather counsel and input and he is choreographing how the ceremony will unfold.

He said the committee wants to produce a ceremony that pays proper respect to the tribute and its message of honoring the branches of military service without belaboring the point.

“I know it’s not going to be a long ceremony,” Hawkins said. “There won’t be lots of speaking.”

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.