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Painting Proceeds Go to Pentagon Memorial Fund

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 25, 2003 – Rick Herter welcomed each person with a smile and a handshake. He eagerly answered and asked questions as he autographed his prints at the Pentagon here Nov. 24.

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(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

After the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Air Force Art Program artist was given the mission of re-creating the scene of the first pilots arriving at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. He said he worked hundreds of hours doing research, taking flights and talking with pilots. "There were some late nights and early mornings," he added.

The results were "First Pass, Defenders Over Washington," which portrays Maj. Dean Eckmann from the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Wing flying his F-16 over the burning Pentagon, and "Ground Zero, Eagles on Station," which shows Lt. Col. Tim Duffy of the Massachusetts Air National Guard's 102nd Fighter Wing as the first F-15 Eagle pilot to reach the World Trade Center site Sept. 11.

The "mark was set pretty high" for these paintings, said Herter, who has 15 other works in the Air Force collection and another "100 or so" in his portfolio. "I had to make sure these were just right," he said. "I kept asking myself, 'Is this the best I can do?'"

Herter said the reward from his work comes from the reaction of those who view it. He recalled the day the paintings were unveiled at the Pentagon. The artist said he was standing near the paintings with a few of his Air Force friends when a Pentagon tour group neared. As the guide kept walking and talking, Herter said the group stopped at his paintings and weren't ready to leave, but the guide told them they had to get moving before the next group arrived.

Paul Campbell of the Joint Military Intelligence Center was attending a class at nearby Bolling Air Force Base on that fateful day. He said he'd seen Herter's prints displayed in the window of Fort America, a Pentagon concession, and intended on getting one. "This makes it all the more special because it is autographed," he said. "I couldn't pass it up. Campbell selected "First Pass, Defenders Over Washington," and said it will hang above the fireplace in his new home a place "where everyone can see it."

Air Force Col. Luis Vazquez from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations also was among those who purchased the Pentagon print. The colonel said he soon will leave the Pentagon and wanted the print to take with him. "It really captures the moment in a way no words can explain," he added.

The print signing was sponsored by Fort America. Proceeds will go to the Pentagon Memorial Fund. During Herter's visit, Natalie Gustafson, Fort America's executive vice president, presented a check for $5,000 to James Laychak of the Pentagon Memorial Fund. Tom O'Rourke, vice president and director of operations for Fort America, had presented a $10,000 check to the memorial fund Nov. 21. Both donations were from previous sales of Herter's prints.

Fort America was one of the first organizations to help the memorial fund, said Laychak, whose brother, David, was among 184 people who perished in the Pentagon attack. "We're thrilled that Natalie, Tom and Fort America have stepped up to help the fund and continue to be strong supporters," he added.

The Pentagon Memorial will feature 184 lighted benches, one dedicated to each victim. It will be built on nearly two acres near the spot where the attack occurred on the Pentagon.

The benches will be made of "cast, clear anodized aluminum polyester," according to a Defense Department news release. They will be positioned according to the victim's ages, from 3 to 71. Each will have a glowing light pool set underneath. The memorial also will feature trees to provide shading and a more intimate atmosphere.

Construction will be funded by private donations. It will be completed about 20 months after enough funding is available to begin the first phase. The amount needed to begin work is $1.5 million, one-third of which has been raised so far.

More information is available at the Pentagon Memorial Fund Web site. Mail donations to P.O. Box 6285, Arlington, VA 22206.

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