Monument to honor 10th Mountain Division soldiers |

Monument to honor 10th Mountain Division soldiers

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Don and Marietta Carlson are determined to raise $48,000 for a monument honoring 10th Mountain Division soldiers – even if they have to mortgage their house to do it.

The Breckenridge couple is behind an effort to erect a monument honoring soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. The men of the 10th trained in the high altitude at Camp Hale near Leadville and fought in Italy in World War II from Dec. 1944 to May 1945. Almost 200 of them were killed in action.

The monument, to be erected near the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, will honor those who fought in the second World War.

Don Carlson didn’t fight with the men in World War II, but he trained with the division for the Korean War. “I have a lot of feeling for them,” Carlson said. “I know most of the guys and wanted to honor them.”

Soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division – some 3,000 still are alive – trained differently than did those in other divisions of the Army. Three letters of recommendation were needed to get into the division, and soldiers trained for three years in brutal conditions that required them to ski, hike and climb at elevations exceeding 10,000 feet.

“The typical infantry training is a lot of marching, a lot of crawling, a lot of fire range,” Carlson said. “But the 10th Mountain Division had to go up in the mountains, live on Chicago Ridge for three weeks in the winter with no fires. They had to live in the snow, make igloos. It’s tough.”

It’s been almost as difficult to get a monument erected to honor the men.

Carlson began those efforts in 1998 by writing to then-Mayor Steve West, asking if he could build the piece of art in three phases: a boulder, dedication plaques and a bronze statue of a soldier on patrol. Town officials said they wanted the project to be built all at once.

“That was going to be tough to collect that kind of money,” Carlson said, adding that he later wrote current Mayor Sam Mamula and posed the same questions. “We told him even if were just the boulder and plaques, even if we can’t get the money for the trooper, it’s still a piece of art sitting on the Riverwalk.”

Mamula agreed.

Carlson acquired an 80-ton glacier river rock from Snowstorm Quarry south of Alma. The rock later was blasted to 50 tons because no trailer could carry the larger boulder over Hoosier Pass.

“I thought it was the best,” Carlson said of the boulder he selected. “It has a splay on top; the trooper will stand there with one leg going down like he’s on patrol.”

Carlson was able to obtain the boulder for free after he told the quarry owner what he planned to do with it. The man only requested that his name be on one of the plaques.

“His name was Jon K. Harms,” Carlson said. “His grandfather was Hitler’s admiral. I’m putting a Nazi name on my American boulder. We got a laugh over that.”

So far, it’s cost $17,000 to move the stone and get the plaques that will adorn its sides. One tells the history of the 10th Mountain Division, another is the division’s logo, and two others are dedicated to those who will help the statue become reality.

The ski-wearing soldier perched atop the boulder is different from the one originally proposed, which had a kneeling trooper holding a rifle.

“All the ladies on the arts commission asked, ‘Why do we have to have a rifle?'” Carlson said. “(Former town arts commissioner) Mark Beling said, ‘Well, what do you want them to use? Slingshots?'”

So when Carlson went to Normandy last May, he took photos of the crosses on the graves of World War II soldiers and brought the pictures back to Colorado for the arts commission members to view.

“I showed them those (pictures), and said, ‘Here’s why we have to have rifles. If we didn’t, we’d have a many more people in the cemetery.’ Now the rifle is on the soldier’s back. He’s on patrol, but he’s not aiming at the center of Breckenridge.”

It will take artist Rob Eccleston of New York – who has created numerous bronze pieces – a year to sculpt and bronze the statue. Carlson plans to debut the piece during a July 4, 2003 celebration, so the money needs to be raised quickly.

Carlson said he’s collected, begged, borrowed and stolen to get as far as he has, which at the moment is $48,000 short of the final goal of $130,000.

“We’ve got everything but the $48,000 to start the trooper,” Carlson said. “But we’ll do it. It’s got to be done, now. I’ll be so proud; it’ll be a great tribute.”

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