FORT BRAGG, NC – Servicemembers and civilians from all walks of life gathered Aug. 27 at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville, N.C., to celebrate the career and life of one of the U.S. Army’s most respected veterans with a statue dedication ceremony.
Gen. (Ret.) H. Hugh Shelton, who ended his military career of 38 years in 2001 after spending the last four years of it as the 14th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was honored in the ceremony with the unveiling of a bronze statue of himself.
“This is by far the most humbling experience that I have ever had, bar none,” Shelton said. “Standing here in the shadow of this magnificent statue, there are only two words that come to mind: ‘Wow’ and the other is ‘thanks.’”
Shelton, a Special Forces veteran who served with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Vietnam, has also served as the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps and the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Shelton thanked all of the individuals involved with making the statue possible, though he expressed particular gratitude to H. Ross Perot, who was also in attendance.
“I don’t think Ross has ever encountered a situation that he thought was too challenging or that he was afraid to tackle,” Shelton said.
Perot, an avid supporter of the military and Army Special Operations, has previously donated the funds to erect statues of Army Special Forces veterans Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons and Maj. Dick Meadows at Fort Bragg, N.C.
As a long-time friend of Shelton, Perot said he felt something had to be done to remember his service. Reading an inscription from the book of Isaiah that is on the base of the statue, Perot commented on how it was reflective of Shelton’s life.
“‘Here am I, send me.’ That’s what he has done through his entire career and since he’s been retired,” Perot said. “First to go, first to volunteer, first to take the risk and first to get the job done.”
Tony Chavonne, mayor of Fayetteville, also spoke words of admiration to Shelton, who is a native of North Carolina.
“We’re humbled to be here this morning, joining you among some of our nation’s greatest heroes,” Chavonne said. “Heroes that wear the uniform, and heroes that don’t; those that are bound together by their love of this country and respect for the man whom we honor here today.”
Chavonne thanked Shelton for his “dedication to the betterment of our military forces, both in conflict and peacetime.”
As Perot and Chavonne unveiled the statue together, the audience erupted into a sea of applause.
“You know the only thing that would have made it better is if it didn’t look so much like me,” Shelton said jokingly. “It would have probably been prettier.”
He said although when most people look at the statue they may only see a replica of him, he sees something much different.
“When I look at it, I am reminded of the millions of men and women in uniform who have served our nation, at home and abroad, during times of peace as well as war,” he said. “I am reminded of the thousands of great Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, as well as members of the Coast Guard who have served alongside me during my 38 years of service; men and women whose motivation is unquestionable, whose devotion to duty is legendary, and whose selfless service was exemplary.”
Quoting a song very familiar with those in attendance, Perot summed up the entire purpose of the event.
“I’d like to remind you all here today, that the last lineof the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner is a question,” Perot said. “‘O, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?’ Believe me as long as we have great patriots like Gen. Shelton the answer to that question will be a resounding, ‘Yes!’”