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VIET STATUE FOR MEMORIAL WAS THERAPY FOR SCULPTOR

SHARE VIET STATUE FOR MEMORIAL WAS THERAPY FOR SCULPTOR

Clyde Ross Morgan has been feeling relief along with apprehension this week as finishing touches are made to an 8-foot-tall bronze statue that started out as a personal therapy project.

Saturday the 47-year-old artist will witness the unveiling of his heroic-size statue, "But Not Forgotten," as the state's memorial to Vietnam veterans is dedicated west of the State Capitol. Ceremonies begin at 2 p.m.Although Morgan's sculptures usually depict historical events and figures, the clay model of the lone soldier trudging through a rice paddy was not originally intended for public display. Morgan served in Vietnam in 1966, and nearly 20 years later he was still troubled by the experience. The original model of "But Not Forgotten" was an assignment from a counselor.

Morgan, who worked in plastic products development and design until he decided at 40 to do what he'd always wanted to do, had seen other Vietnam depictions. And he was angry. "I never thought it should be fantasized, romanticized, or Rambo-ized," he said.

When Morgan - a St. George native who grew up at the mouth of Emigration Canyon and now lives in Sedona, Ariz. - decided to sculpt the statue, he contacted a fellow Vietnam vet to be the model. O'Conner Dale, a river guide living in Kanab, served in Vietnam in '68. The rifle shouldered by the soldier in Morgan's statue is the same as the one Dale used.

When they saw the finished model, friends who'd read about the Utah competition for a Vietnam memorial urged Morgan to enter the piece at the Springville Museum of Art. It was early 1985. Judging had already been going on for two weeks. And before Morgan could get his sculpture to Utah, his father and 17-year-old son both died.

With the works of 16 other sculptors already in the running, the odds were against him. But Morgan's entry was the only one that had a figure in it.

"I was really lonely over there, and really lonely when I got back," he said. "No one wanted to hear about it (Vietnam)."

Morgan said the emphasis is on the soldier's face. "The whole piece is about the feelings of anger, frustration, and hopelessness in his face."

The soldier's eyes reflect the "thousand-yard stare," a form of grieving that Morgan saw in the empty eyes of many who'd come back from Vietnam.

"You couldn't sit down and cry at a funeral, because it's not macho to show your feelings. So most guys ended up staring out into space somewhere," Morgan explained.

The extra rifle carried by the infantryman signifies the loss of a comrade. "When anyone was MedEvac'd out," said Morgan, "you picked up their equipment and knew they hadn't made it. It was a very disheartening scene."

In March 1985, the committee notified Morgan that his model had been selected for the Utah memorial. He spent the summer of '86 in Salt Lake and had the full-size clay model completed by August.

The memorial's dedication was set for July 4, 1987. But fund raising took longer than expected, delaying the dedication two years.

Meanwhile, "But Not Forgotten" proved its therapeutic value. "I've talked more about Vietnam in the past six months than in the last 20 years," Morgan said three years ago, when he was working on the full-scale piece. "It's nice to know that some of the other vets have had the same problems. It's helped me understand why I was having relationship problems."

Morgan is breathing a sigh of relief as the unveiling nears. "It's been a real energy drainer," he said. The self-taught artist is eager to get back to his regular work and start catching up on his depictions of historicevents, which he researches for accuracy.

Among them are famous Indians and a bronze of explorer John Wesley Powell and his crew in "Sockdolager." Like "But Not Forgotten," it's a piece Morgan relates to because of his own experiences on the river.

Living and working among other artists in Sedona, Morgan has put his Vietnam experiences into perspective and seems content with his life.

"I've tried to imagine what I'd do if I had all the money in the world," he said, "and I'd be doing what I'm doing now: running rivers and sculpting - only more of it."