BY DENNIS BUCKLEY for Neighborhood Extra
Admirers of the “Cost of Freedom” sculpture on the Veterans Affairs (VA) campus are loving what they see again.
They breathe a collective sigh of relief after a third absence in the sculpture’s four-year history sparked concerns and led to rumors that it had been stolen.
The sculpture, originally purchased for $16,000 by representatives of the Lincoln East Rotary Foundation and other partners, had several temporary homes before landing at the new VA construction site south of 70th and O streets. The sculpture is a tribute to the sacrifice of American veterans.
Effects of Mother Nature
It wasn’t long before Mother Nature played a part in its fate, toppling the structure during a windstorm in November 2019. This led to a rehabilitation process in a maintenance building on the VA grounds, where Tammy Miller, the sculpture’s original artist, teamed up with several VA employees to piece the sculpture back together.
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Over the past year, the natural wear and tear on the exterior décor has taken its toll, creating the need to replace the sculpture’s black wooden base. Rotarian Mike Ahrens provided the workers and materials to restore the sculpture.
The latest episode in the chain of events happened recently and was another example of the carving showing signs of wear. The sculpture’s flag, made of a different material than the hands, was beginning to show its age. This led to a month-long restoration process designed by Larry Kruse at Kruse Restoration, Joe Kenny at Sherwin-Williams Paint, Nate Decker at LINE-X and a representative from Sign Pro. The repair crew applied a highly durable finish and returned the sculpture to its familiar location on the VA grounds, much to the delight of passing motorists on South 70th Street.
“They panic when there are no more”
“It’s stronger now and bolted to the concrete,” said Lincoln East Rotary Club spokesman Duane Tappe, a US Marine Corps veteran. He participated in lively bidding at a public art auction in 2018 in which 51 Serving Hands sculptures were up for grabs.
“A lot of people care about this sculpture, and they freak out when it’s gone,” Tappe added. “It sparked a lot of curiosity and awareness.”
The final repair process cost the Lincoln East Rotary Club about $1,500, he said. “It’s looking great again and should hold up well in the Nebraska weather.”
The Lincoln East Rotary Club holds weekly lunch meetings at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesdays in The Garage meeting room, south of South 48th Street and Nebraska Highway 2.