The VVA Veteran® Online

July/August 2013

A Crazy Idea: The Three Servicemen South Memorial in Apalachicola, Florida


Florida State Council President Ben Humphries (left) stood with 
Jimmy Mosconis after presenting the keynote address on Patriot Day. Photos by Linda GeorgeYou could say that the idea for the statue dedicated to Vietnam veterans at the Veterans Memorial Plaza in 2008 in Apalachicola, Florida, was born in Vietnam on May 28, 1969. That was the day that a 199th Light Infantry Brigade Company ran into an NVA ambush in Xuan Loc. A nineteen-year-old PFC from Maryland named Jan Scruggs was severely wounded that day, as was his sergeant, Jimmy Mosconis, a self-described “old home-town boy” from the Florida Panhandle port city of Apalachicola.

“He was one of my guys,” Mosconis said of Scruggs, who went on to become the guiding force behind the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. “I was an E-6; he was an E-3. I ran the mortar platoon. When we were ambushed that day, he almost bled to death and I was wounded, but not as badly. Six weeks later Jan was back in the field. He had a lot of metal in him.”

The bond that Sgt. Mosconis and PFC Scruggs formed on the battlefield in Vietnam was rekindled in 2000 when Scruggs, the head of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, paid a visit to his old sergeant in his home town of Apalachicola. The talk got around to memorials. Scruggs mentioned that Frederick Hart, the sculptor who created the iconic “Three Servicemen” bronze statue that sits next to The Wall, had expressed the desire before he died in 1999 to have a few replicas in other places around the country.

“He wanted them out there so people could see it and not have to go to Washington,” Mosconis said.

Scruggs then asked his old sergeant if he wanted the first one in Apalachicola. “It was a crazy idea,” Mosconis said. “It was wild. I said, ‘Yes.’ ”

That began an eight-year odyssey to raise the money to build the Apalachicola Veterans Memorial Plaza, a few blocks north of the city’s downtown, with the statue as its centerpiece. Mosconis started a nonprofit group, Three Servicemen Statue South, and began the fundraising. “I talked to friends and veterans and got a good team on board,” Mosconis said. “It wasn’t easy, but nothing worth doing is easy.”

All the legal and engineering work was donated. Contributions big and small began to come in. Most importantly, a local contractor, Gulf Asphalt, sent three men with five pieces of heavy equipment to do five weeks’ worth of site work for free. “If they hadn’t done that, it wouldn’t have been done, because we had run out of money,” Mosconis said. “To this day every time I see the owner I thank him.”

Private donations ran the gamut from small to large. “We had a lot of twenty-five dollar contributions,” Mosconis—who donated a large amount of money himself—said. “We raised a total of $1.2 million.”

With the money in hand, a statue was made from the original Three Servicemen molds in the foundry on Long Island in New York where the original bronze was cast. It was delivered to Florida by FedEx in a twenty-eight-foot trailer after Mosconis contacted the company’s founder and CEO, Fred Smith, a Vietnam veteran.

“He agreed to ship it free,” Mosconis said of Smith. “That would have cost thousands.”

The statue is what is known in art circles as a “detail.” The statue is “not the total work,” Mosconis explained, as it does not include the lower parts of the three figures. “The Three Servicemen is a national art treasure,” Mosconis said, “that’s why our version had to be a detail. It doesn’t have legs.”

The statue is embedded in a nine-ton piece of granite, which gives the appearance that the fighting men are treading water or are above their knees in mud. When he heard that the statue would be a detail with the men’s legs cut off, Mosconis said, “I thought it was going to look like a bust. But placed on the black granite on an angle gives the effect that the guys are raised out of rock.”

The statue and the city-owned Veterans Memorial Plaza, which is managed by the Florida Park Service, were dedicated on July 12, 2008. Mosconis served as emcee at the dedication ceremonies. Jan Scruggs gave the keynote speech. Lindy Hart, the sculptor’s widow, also spoke.

The plaque below the statue notes that it is dedicated “in memory of those persons from the South who valiantly served their country during the Vietnam War (1959-1975). Their commitment to their country, to freedom and to each other will long be honored by this memorial, which represents, for all time, the human face of those who served.”

As for Jan Scruggs’s old sarge, the experience of leading the effort to build the extraordinary memorial was one of the most meaningful in his life. “It humbles me to think about it and talk about it,” Mosconis said. “It is an honor to have the only replica of this famous statue in our town. We would not have received it without the dedication of everyone here.”

Go to for more info on the memorial.

Also: David Bonior’s Speech To VVA’s Founding Convention.
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