KELLOGG, Minn. - On August 4th, Shelly and David Speedling were in Clearwater, Florida for the dedication of the Circle of Heroes. The husband and wife team own SVJ Creative Designs - a statuary.
"To see them cut the ribbon and the different veterans that went down to see the statues down there and to ask to be a part of it is very honoring," said David.
The Circle of Heroes is America's first underwater veterans memorial. 12 statues are sunk in the ocean, roughly 10 miles off the shore of Clearwater. It's a therapeutic dive site for disabled veterans and marine life will gradually attach to it, creating an artificial reef. The plaques of the statues will be regularly scrubbed to remain readable, but marine life will be allowed to grow on the statues.
Three of the 12 statues were made by SVJ Creative Designs: a kneeling soldier with a battlefield cross, a female Iraq Freedom Fighter, and a Southeast Asia war statue. Next year, the Circle of Heroes is adding 12 more statues to complete a 100-foot circle. Three more of SVJ Creative Design's statues will go to Florida: a World War I statue, a World War 2 statue, and a custom Coast Guard statue.
The Coast Guard statue is modeled after William Flores, who died when he was 18. He would be in 50s today. Using photographs, SVJ Creative Designs constructed a statue to look like Flores. That statue will have its own dedication in January 2020. The Speedlings were able to meet the Flores family at the Circle of Heroes dedication.
The plaques of the statues will be regularly scrubbed to remain readable, but marine life will be allowed to grow on the statues.
The Speedlings say they have statues in every state in the U.S., and plenty of statues locally. On August 10th, a veterans memorial in Elba with SVJ Creative Designs' statues was dedicated. "What they've done in Elba, that is just as special to us as the one down in Clearwater...Every single one is wonderful for us to be involved with," says Shelly.