The responsibility is huge. There will be thousands of school children who will view this monument on the Capitol grounds; I hope it will make them think about it, ask questions and want to know more about the sacrifices so many have made.
–Sculptor Duke Sundt
The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veteran Monument Committee commissioned New Mexico artist Duke Sundt to create the bronze sculpture that honors Texas’ 500,000 Vietnam Veterans on the grounds of their state’s capitol in Austin.
The son of a highly decorated career United States Army World War II and Korean War veteran, and the brother of Vietnam veteran Dick Sundt, Duke is a talented and accomplished artist specializing in large bronze sculpture. His work ranges from the 1.5 X life-sized Texas Longhorn on the University of Texas campus in Austin, to a pair of life-sized javelinas on a private Arizona residence, to a number of military figures commissioned by organizations around the nation. The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Design Committee, with authorization of the Executive Board, selected Sundt – a former rodeo cowboy – because of his family’s military background, his nearly 40 years of sculpting experience, his attention to artistic detail and his work with larger-than-life bronze monuments.
Sundt’s father was a West Point graduate who served 30 years in the Army. His oldest brother and a first cousin also graduated from West Point and served in Vietnam, artillery and infantry respectively. “My oldest brother, Dick Sundt, was also a West Pointer, Class of ‘59. He served two tours in Vietnam, the first as a FO (forward artillery observer) with the First Cavalry in 1965-66,” Duke says. “Dick experienced a lot of close combat by the time he had a chance to send me a Christmas card in Dec. 1965. I was a senior in high school at that time in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The note inside said ‘Merry Christmas Duke, keep your #%@ in school, you don’t need any part of this.’” His work on the Monument, Duke says, is a debt paid to his brother, his four friends who were Killed In Action, and all Vietnam veterans.
And this is not the first time Sundt has sculpted a piece in honor of war veterans. In 1985, Duke was commissioned by the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell to sculpt five larger-than-life-sized bronzes representing a World War I “doughboy,” a World War II infantry soldier and a B-17 bomber pilot, a Korean War tank commander and a Vietnam War infantry soldier. Now the artist brings his significant talents and attention to detail to his carefully designed Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument.
Sundt’s cold cast version of a scale model of the Monument is now available upon request for display at fundraising and awareness events to help build the monument. As the monument committee continues fundraising, Duke is putting the finishing touches on the final sculpture in preparation for casting at the Deep in the Heart Art Foundry in Bastrop. “It is quite humbling to have a monument I will have created to be erected on the Capitol grounds in Austin,” he says. “I hope it will be a learning experience for young people, a healing experience for veterans, and most of all, a long overdue welcome home for Vietnam veterans. This Monument is for them.”
With your help, the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument will be dedicated in the fall of 2013.