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Firefighters donate to Iwo Jima statue restoration project

By Staff | May 21, 2011

As restoration efforts continue on the Iwo Jima statue at Eco Park, the local firefighters union will provide a $5,000 check to help the project along.
At 8:30 a.m. today, Cape Coral Professional Fire Fighters Local 2424 will make the check presentation to the Iwo Jima Restoration Fund in memory of Craig T. Fuller at the site. The ceremony also honors Armed Services Day.
Local 2424 President Mark Muerth explained that the money was turned over several weeks ago, but the union asked that the donation be kept private.
“We wanted to find the perfect date (for the presentation),” he said.
The union raised the $5,000 through the Florida firefighters’ vehicle tag fund-raiser. Sold every year, the tags’ proceeds can benefit any cause.
“It can go to any charity that meets certain criteria,” Muerth said.
When the idea for restoring the Iwo Jima statue was brought up months ago at a city council meeting, the union decided it was a worthy cause to support.
“Many of our personnel are ex-military,” he said.
A number of Cape fire employees also went to school with Fuller.
“So it’s all got kind of a special purpose,” Muerth said. “It’s all connected.”
“This little bit will hopefully help,” he added.
According to Beth Sanger, executive director of the Cape Coral Community Foundation, more than $50,000 has been raised for the Iwo Jima Restoration Fund. An extra $35,000 was provided by the city council in a December vote.
Officials expect that the project will cost about $85,000 to complete.
Commandant George Colom, of the local Marine Corps League, has been one of the major players advocating for the restoration. As of Wednesday, Colom said the project is progressing. He is documenting the restoration each day.
“It’s moving along pretty good,” Colom said. “We’ve gotten over a lot of the tough stuff.”
According to Don Meek, who is volunteering his service as a consultant, the current focus is the statue’s structural integrity. Meek, owner of Technical Speciality Systems in Iowa, has been in the restoration industry since 1978.
“The interior has deteriorated,” he said. “We’re working through that.”
Stabilizing the statue is expected to take a couple of more weeks.
Along with the structural aspect, more detailed and technical pieces of the statue have been worked on, including ammunition belts worn by the soldiers. The old rusty flag pole was removed, and a stainless steel one will replace it.
“So we don’t have this same problem again,” Meek said.
Once the interior is done, the outside will be completed for accuracy. An exterior coating will provide the correct roughness or smoothness in areas.
“Then the whole thing will be coated with a specialized coating to make it look like it did, like the original,” he said, adding that the original was bronze.
The statue is expected to be done by mid-July.
Granite panels on the exterior of the statue base then will go up.
“Hopefully, by the end of July, it’ll pretty much be all done,” Meek said.
According to Sanger, a second fund has been opened at the foundation to help pay for the regular upkeep of the statue, as well as the other memorials at Eco Park. Resident Bootes Toll set up the fund in her husband’s memory.
“She’s really hoping for other people to help contribute,” Sanger said.
The statue previously sat in the Rose Garden and was in good repair until about 1970.
It is one of three condensed copies of the original at Arlington Cemetery. The others are located at Qauntico, Va., and Parris Island, S.C.