AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As America honors the thousands of men and women who fight for our freedom, the completion of a new statue on the Texas Capitol grounds six years in the making could not have timed out better.
It’s called Price of Liberty, and it’s dedicated to Texas military members and their families who answered the country’s call after Sept. 11, 2001. The monument features Lady Liberty, as an angel, pulling an armed soldier away from his wife and daughter, who are clutching a folded flag.
“It resonates because I am a husband and a father of a little girl, my six-year-old daughter, and so just seeing it for the first time just touched my heart,” Navy veteran Allan Umana said through tears.
Umana should know. He served from 2005-2009 and did tours in Iraq and in North Africa.
“It brings a lot of memories but I’m also very proud to have served with those guys and those gals, too, who gave it all,” he said.
Yolanda Valdez understands that sacrifice every day. Her son, Marine Lance Corporal Nicholas Perez, was killed in a combat zone in Iraq in 2004.
“That statue is beautiful. Unfortunately, I am part of it,” she said as she saw the memorial for the first time this week. Her pulse began to race when she saw the monument, saying that it brought back a flood of feelings.
“People care, they are showing us that they care, or showing us ‘Thank you’ for the sacrifice my family did,” Valdez said. Her son has also been honored with an elementary school in southeast Austin named after him.
The project was the brainchild of retired Army Col. James Stryker.
“I said we were going to build a monument to honor the men and women and the sacrifices that the families have gone through,” Stryker stated. “Most Americans don’t realize what these families go through that have service members in them.”
Stryker’s wife, a retired major general in the Texas military, joined him and three others to form the Texas War Memorial Board in 2012.
Stryker said he aimed to “get a monument built to give a place for the grieving families to go and say, ‘Hey the state of Texas recognizes the sacrifice that my family has made and they appreciate what we have done.'”
After the design was created, the board partnered with lawmakers and the state’s Preservation Board to get approval on the monument location, soliciting donations from community members and businesses.
Project leaders said they raised enough money to cover the initial costs and provide funding to the state for future maintenance.
State Sen. Larry Taylor authored the resolution in the upper chamber to allow the State Preservation Board to approve the construction.
“I am thrilled that the Price of Liberty is now available for the public to visit,” Taylor said in a statement.
“It is my hope that the memorial serves as an everlasting proclamation of Texas’s dedication to honoring our military members,” he said.
Texas takes pride in caring for its veterans as they return home and transition back into civilian life, according to Texas Veterans Commission Executive Director Thomas Palladino said.
“It’s a new generation of our citizens and our residents were going off to fight and defend our freedom‘s and to work with our allies to defeat terrorism,” Palladino said.
“Our mission is to advocate for all veterans and their families and survivors, to assist them in obtaining all those benefits and services that they have earned,” Palladino said, citing the multitude of resources for veterans in Texas, such as filing disability claims, getting access to healthcare, helping with employment and job skills, starting their own business through entrepreneur programs, and education benefits. A list of resources is available on the Texas Veterans Commission website.