Sprague unveils female combat veteran statue, said to be first in the state

Sprague — The town on Monday unveiled a bronze statue of a female combat veteran, the latest addition to its Veterans Memorial Park on West Main Street.

Believed to be the first statue of a female veteran in the state, the figure has been in the works for about seven years and is the result of fundraising efforts spearheaded by the American Legion Post 85. With the help of the Sprague Rod & Gun Club and a host of area businesses and veterans groups, the post raised $50,000 for the project.

"We had motorcycle runs, poker runs, spaghetti dinners, chicken dinners, boot drives. We sold luminaries. From soup to nuts, anything we could think of to raise money," State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, who is the commander of the post, said in a recent phone interview.

The post, which has about 40 members, began making improvements to the memorial park about 12 years ago, including updating the gazebo, adding names to a plaque listing the town's war dead, and installing a fallen soldier memorial.

Osten, who served on active duty in the Army for four years, said American Legion posts across the country are looking to bring on more female members. Women tend not to join these veterans' groups because they don't feel like they belong and they often don't know the benefits that are available to them, she said.

About a dozen female veterans, including a cadet nurse, were on hand for Monday's unveiling. The statue, made by Brodin Studios in Kimball, Minn., recognizes women's involvement in the military, Osten said.

"I always thought it was the best decision I ever made," Osten said of enlisting in the Army three days after her 18th birthday.

Tom Coletti, a past commander of the post who was also involved with the effort, said by phone late last week that since 9/11 there's been an increase of women serving in the military, and the statute is a tribute to that.

j.bergman@theday.com

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