BRANSON, Mo. — It’s been a long journey, but just in time for Memorial Day, the much talked about “50 Man Statue” is out of storage and back at the Veteran’s Memorial Museum in Branson.
Back in 2013, the museum lost the statue to Cornerstone Bank of York, Nebraska during a financial crisis. The city of Branson purchased it and put it in storage.
The 15 ton statue was transported by trucks in two pieces. With police escorts and dozens of onlookers, the World War II themed statue titled “Storming the Beach,” arrived back at the museum just before 11:30 Thursday morning.
“I’m just happy that it’s here. It’s back home,” said Roger Binnicker, a veteran onlooker.
Terry Heckenberns was also watching the moving of the statue. He recently served in the military reserves. “To me, it makes you proud to do what you do in the military.”
The two sections of the statue were carefully removed from the trucks and this time, it was placed on display outside of the museum.
Fred Hoppe, owner of the museum and sculptor of the statue said, “Words can’t describe it. I’m just overjoyed that it’s back out here on the strip where it can honor the vets that fought and died for our freedom.”
It’s personal for Hoppe. His father, Fred Hoppe Sr. is the first soldier on the statue.
“Well my father did beach invasions during WWII out of Higgins Boats…and he fought in some of the worse battles in the war.”
“When I did the sculpture on the 50 guys, there’s probably only 20, or 25 alive, Hoppe said, “I did a lot of them by pictures of them sent to me by the families.”
However, in the midst of all the joy and elation that the statue is back in front of the Veteran’s Memorial Museum – there’s still a question of where it will end up…permanently.
Geoff Gardisky, Operations Manager for the Museum said, “We knew that going in, and we’d like to hope that it doesn’t get sold and that it has a long life here.”
“It’s not about the museum as much as it is about every veteran that drives by this piece now, said Gardisky, “It’s going to honor anybody that’s ever worn a uniform.”
He also thanked Branson Mayor Karen Best for “always rolling out the red carpet” for veterans — as well as City Council.