Army veteran trying to keep Iwo Jima sculpture hopes alive

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MANATEE COUNTY-- An Army veteran from Bradenton is beginning his own fundraising campaign to bring Felix de Weldon's original Iwo Jima Memorial Sculpture to the Suncoast. This, after a Sarasota man scrapped plans to bring the sculpture to the city's bayfront.

Kevin Henault, the owner of Veteran Heating and Air Conditioning is leading the new effort.

"If I can bring something of this stature to our area. I'm all in and excited to do what I can to promote it and get it here," said Henault.

Henault says he was disappointed and stunned when he learned Tom Savage with the Sarasota Public Art Fund cancelled his plans to purchase and bring the statue to Sarasota. Savage ended his campaign after city commissioners voted 3-2 to send the proposal through numerous other committees as a way of gathering more public input. Savage wanted the statue in place by November 10th.

Harold Ronson, a World War II veteran assisted Savage with his endeavor.

"I think they (city commission) hurt Mr. Savage so much. I am gradually coming along with it," said Ronson. "We did a lot of work on this, and just to throw it away..."

Henault doesn't want to see this opportunity get thrown away completely. In a few weeks, he will begin his fundraising with the hopes of generating $1.4 million to purchase the statue. He is currently talking with non-profits that are interested in managing the funds.

According to Henault, he doesn't care where the sculpture is displayed, as long as it is somewhere on the Suncoast.

"Any local municipality that wants to get involved and wants it in their community, we would be happy to have it there. It's not about Sarasota or Bradenton. It's more about getting it here," said Henault.

On our Facebook page, we asked our followers where they would like to see the sculpture. An overwhelming amount said Sarasota National Cemetery. Others said, Sarasota's bayfront, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, and Bradenton's Riverwalk.