- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) - He is the face of no one soldier. Yet he is the face of any soldier.

But oddly enough, he is not the face of the man who was the model for the 8-foot, 3-inch bronze statue in the downtown Mountain Home Plaza, The Baxter Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1TuIb4O ) reported.

“When it was unveiled, I thought - ‘That doesn’t look like me,’” says Rocky Dodson, now 46, who coached boys high school basketball for 22 years at Norfork and Cotter high schools.

Dodson says the sculptor, Ron Moore, explained to Dodson that as a basketball coach he is known in the community and the goal was not to have people debating how much the face did or did not look like him.

“He didn’t want that to take away from the project,” says Dodson, who is in his second year as the boys basketball coach and athletic director at Omaha High School, south of Branson.

Dodson does not resemble the statue in other ways, as well. He is neither 8-foot, 3-inches tall, nor 900 pounds. He is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds.

He and Moore met years ago at Mountain Home Church of Christ, where they both attended.

A mutual friend asked Dodson if he would model for the artist for the bronze soldier project. Dodson said sure.

Since Dodson is not a veteran, friends helped him obtain a uniform and M1 rifle.

The first time he posed was in a wooded area outside of Norfork High. Moore took photographs of him.

After a while, Dodson’s arm became fatigued from holding the rifle. Dodson says Moore told him that the greater the fatigue the more he looked like a soldier. Later, Moore took additional photos at his Mountain Home studio.

The statue was unveiled on Veterans Day 2003. It was commissioned - or paid for - by the family of Dr. Richard L. Byrd to honor veterans.

On that day, Dodson says, he fully realized what the statue means.

“I felt proud,” he says. “I felt good that I could give back to those brave men and women that did so much. I was just glad that I could give something back on a small level - a very small level.”

In addition, he says, ever since he has a solid ice-breaker in social settings, or when called upon to volunteer a a tidbit about himself.

“I say that I once posed for a statue - and no one believes me,” he says.

Moore, who lives in Baxter County, says that although he deliberately did not replicate Dodson’s face, anyone who pays close attention to how Dodson stands and poses will know who it is.

“The pose and the gesture, which are important, give a sense of service, loss and grief,” Moore says.

The placement of the second rifle in the ground - with a helmet on top - represents a fallen fellow soldier, says Moore, a Vietnam veteran.

“We did not want it to be a statue of Rocky,” he says. “We wanted people to think of their son, or of their own military experience.”

Most of the military equipment on the statue is from WWII or Korea, Moore says.

“But the point is not the branch of service or the era,” he says. “The point of a successful statue is that you don’t tell everything to the viewer.”

Moore says he decided not to put a helmet on the soldier to give him a greater sense of individuality, to make him seem more like a person - more like a father or a son or a brother.

The statue, in its own way, has become a focal point of untold stories, Moore says.

“Sometimes things happen that you did not plan on,” he says. “Very often, I will drive by the statue and I’ll see that someone has left a wreath or flowers. It is very moving for me.

“There is a story for every wreath left out there. I don’t know what those stories are. But I do know people are leaving them for reasons other than my statue.”

___

Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com

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