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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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7/2/2013 2:00:00 PM
Injured former Marine models for statue at Prescott VA
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Sculptor and veteran Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona measures former Marine Alex Minsky for a sculpture, “Heroic Challenges,” Thursday afternoon at a home in Prescott. “Heroic Challenges” will be placed in front of the new sports courts at the Prescott VA.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Sculptor and veteran Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona measures former Marine Alex Minsky for a sculpture, “Heroic Challenges,” Thursday afternoon at a home in Prescott. “Heroic Challenges” will be placed in front of the new sports courts at the Prescott VA.
Lisa Irish
The Daily Courier

As U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) Lance Cpl. Alex Minsky posed Thursday for a statue of a wounded warrior to be installed at sport courts under construction at the Bob Stump Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott, sculptor Clyde Ross Morgan took measurements, photos, and 3-D scans.

"I'm a stickler for authenticity," said Morgan, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Sedona and created sculptures for Utah's Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial in Phoenix.

Those details will help Morgan create the "Heroic Challenges" bronze sculpture of a runner with a prosthetic leg and tracheotomy, burn and shrapnel scars crossing a finish line. Morgan will create the statue at Skurja Art Casting in Prescott.

"This represents a real person, a real Marine and his story," Morgan said. "I'm hoping it makes other vets think, 'Hey, I can do something too. Maybe I can't run marathons, but I have something that I can do right now rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself.'"

Minsky, now 24, had served just two weeks in Afghanistan when an IED exploded near his patrol vehicle in Bakwa on May 31, 2009 and he lost his right leg and suffered traumatic brain injury. Minsky spent over a month in a coma and had to learn how to talk and move again.

"I was supposed to be in the hospital for years," Minsky said. "My prognosis was 3-1/2 years recovery and I did it in 18 months."

After coming back to his California home, Minsky said he battled depression.

"My mother recognized before I did that I was numbing himself by drinking and running away," Minsky said.

After a DUI, Minsky gave up drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, immersed himself in working out four hours a day, volunteering, and serving others.

"When I have a down day, I step outside myself to help someone else and that helps me," Minsky said.

During a gym workout nine months ago, a photographer approached Minsky about modeling.

Since then, Minsky's career has taken off. He's landed a number of underwear and other modeling jobs, been interviewed by media all over the country, and talked about his experiences on Jay Leno.

"I'm thankful that I don't have to run away anymore," Minsky said. "Now I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, following the next indicated step, and things just happen. My wildest dreams have been met and more."

Minsky said he's happy to be of service as part of the veterans sport court project.

"I'm hoping that it (the statue) inspires people, and when they see the statue that they say, 'Look at this guy, he's not giving up. Why am I giving up?'" Minsky said. "I hope they get motivated and it gives them a little push."

The sport courts near the chapel is about 80 percent complete, thanks to $125,000 in donations, said Bob Wallace, Prescott project director for the Arizona Military Order of the Devil Dogs Charities, part of the Marine Corps League.

"We'd like to thank everyone for their widespread support, from the $1 donations to the subcontractors who donated labor," Wallace said. "There's something magical about this project. When people hear about it, they want to help."

The wheelchair-accessible lighted multi-sport courts will provide able-bodied and disabled veterans a place to play basketball, tennis, handball, racquetball, badminton, paddleball, pickleball, volleyball, and shuffleboard. It also includes seating, restroom, and manager's office.

"We are pleased that the veterans will have a place to exercise," Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System Spokeswoman Ame Callahan said. "The Marine Corps League has done a tremendous job to get this built. They worked hard on this for several years."

The sport courts dedication ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, and Wallace said he hopes the community will attend. He noted that the governor, local mayors, and Northern Arizona veterans groups have been invited.

Morgan said when he heard about the court, he asked Wallace if he wanted a sculpture and noted that working on the project meant a lot to him.

"There are a number of Vietnam Veteran that I know, who are silently doing the best they can to make sure that no veterans are treated the way we Vietnam veterans were treated when we came back," Morgan said. "They make sure the younger veterans are given the honor due them for their service and never criticized for what they did."

After Morgan saw Minsky on the news Saturday, he asked if Minksy would be interested in posing for the statue. Then Wallace called Veterans Airlift Command Pilot Chuck Fulton to see if he could bring Minsky here.

Veterans Airlift Command provides free air transportation for post 9/11 combat wounded veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes through a network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.

Fulton said Veterans Airlift Command Founder and Chairman Walt Fricke told him to "do it," so he flew to Newport Beach, Calif., on Thursday morning to pick up Minsky.

"I've seen a lot of veterans who have been wounded, and too often because they get a disability they kind of end their life there and just exist," Morgan said. "Everybody gets dealt a different hand of cards. It's what we do with the ones we've been dealt that makes the difference in our lives."

Minsky said he'd like other injured veterans to know that they don't have to be unhappy.

"It was hard to realize this, I had heard it, but it wasn't until I cared that it actually stuck," Minsky said. "I don't have to live that way if I don't want to. I don't have to be unhappy. I can take steps, actions, to make myself better, and that's what I'm doing."

While some people have encouraged Minsky to go into acting, he said he's seeking balance in his life. Down the road, Minsky said he and U.S. Army veteran Mylee YC are considering creating a gym for veterans where they can also meet sports and mental health therapists.

"All of this just happened, so we're spitballing ideas and stuff like that, but really the sky's the limit," Minsky said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, July 03, 2013
Article comment by: Give'm Hell Harry

What a great project and wonderful story of redemption from a terrible event in this young mans life. He said it best and his courage is so inspiring. And as someone who knows and admires sculptor Clyde Morgan, there is no better artist and man than Clyde. His amazing talent, skills and artistry are unmatched by anyone.

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