VIRGINIA

Lewis Chesty Puller statue dedicated

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A statue of the Marine Corps' most decorated member was dedicated Monday.

Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/flickr

The sculpture stands atop a hill overlooking the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The 8-foot tall bronze figure is pointing, the right arm raised as if leading troops into battle.

"We knew him as Chesty," says Marine Major Sean Marland. "He's always been one of those founding fathers, that we always followed."

At a ceremony attended by family, friends, U.S. Marines and retired military members, the sculpture of General Lewis Puller, the most decorated U.S. Marine in history, was unveiled.

"He did get my father," says Martha Puller-Downs, speaking of sculptor Terry Jones, himself a former U.S. Marine.

"He's a battle marine, he's a combat marine," Jones says of Puller. "He's the type of Marine leader you want on the front lines when you have to deal with the enemy and win."

General Puller was a commander in some of the bloodiest battles of World War Two and Korea.
Names like Peleliu, Guadalcanal, and Chosin Reservoir.

"I was just 19 year old at the time," recalls Marine Lieutenant General Stephen Olmstead.

He was a private during the Korean War, when he saw the-then Colonel Puller up close.

"I remember him on the side of the road one day,  'we got them now boys, we got them now'. He was a very obvious leader," Olmstead says.

A distinguished career: duty, honor, country and sheer raw courage. General Puller would be awarded five Navy Crosses.

"He was definitely a Marine's Marine," says Marland.

For Jones, the challenge was to capture the character of the man in sculpture. He looked at photograph after photograph, but perhaps a better, surer way was to simply talk to the men who served under the general.

"I would get the oral history," Jones says.

That history included tales of bravery, and a single-minded determination to win in battle.

"His aide says General, we're totally surrounded," Jones says. "He says good, now we have them where we want them. If you keep shooting, you can't miss any of 'em."

Puller was forced to retire in 1955 after a stroke. He died in 1971 at age 73.

"He was like Patton, you know?" says James Lovett, among the World War II army veterans who attended the ceremony.

"Anything for the vets. He's a good general, too... very good general," added Lovett.

But now, on this Veteran's Day weekend, the nickname "Chesty," from his erect posture and barrel chest, is now, like the man, part of Marine Corps legend.

"I love the fact that it's going to keep my father's legacy alive," Martha Puller-Downs smiles. "He definitely, really is a big part of the Marine Corps, and he should be here."

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