BOISE, Idaho — Dirk Kempthorne was the Governor of Idaho from 1999 to 2006. One of the things he did while in office was creating the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.
“Idaho was the last state to have a state veterans cemetery," said Kempthorne. "When I became governor, I made it one of my initiatives. I said, 'we might be the last, but we will also be one of the best.'"
However, Kempthorne has always wanted to create a statue to honor the warriors who fought, gave their lives, and continue to serve today.
Kempthorne spearheaded this project, and a donation from Albertsons made it a real possibility. Gehrhard Barbonus Landscaping donated rock for a foundation in the cemetery, and the cemetery's architect moved the stone and eventually the statue.
But, before that happened, Kempthorne had to find an artist to sculpt this statue.
Luckily, he didn't have to leave Boise to find Ben Victor.
“I found this magnificent young artist named Ben Victor. I saw the brilliance of his work and his God-given talents," said Kempthorne.
Victor creates statues that are located all over the world, and you've probably seen some of his work right here in Boise at the Blue Star Memorial at the airport or the famous statue of former Boise State coach Lyle Smith in front of Albertsons Stadium.
"I love to use my talent and artwork to honor our veterans," said Victory. "There is no higher calling and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the freedoms that we do every day without the service our veterans have provided."
The statue has been delivered to its resting spot at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery and it will be unveiled in a special ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“The kneeling figure has his hands clasped, he’s looking out at the graves, he’s got dog tags in his hand of his fallen brethren and sisters as he looks out in mourning," said Victor. "To his back is a female service member with her hand on his shoulder as an emblem of patriotism and protection."
These two sentinels of freedom will look out over the cemetery and the Treasure Valley from this day forward, but they also have something no other statue in the world has.
Kempthorne retrieved sacred soil from different battlefields.
That dirt sits inside a bronze heart that resembles a Purple Heart and the sacrifices men and women have made for our country.
"In here is the soil from Yorktown, Antietam, Normandy Beach, Corregidor, Korea, Landing Zone X-Ray in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan," said Kempthorne. "It is where Americans have shed blood in defense of our freedom and our democracy, and now it resides in every warrior that you see in that statue."
Governor Brad Little and the Idaho National Guard will be on hand for the ceremony on Saturday which also provides a good way for people to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend.