Madras Honors Fallen Soldier with Statue

MADRAS, Ore. (AP) - Residents in the Central Oregon city of Madras have unveiled a memorial to Army Pfc. Thomas Tucker, the hometown soldier kidnapped in a checkpoint ambush in Iraq and killed three years ago.


The bronze statue shows Tucker, dressed in combat fatigues, reaching up to help an Iraqi girl. Sculptor Rip Caswell of Troutdale said his design came from stories he heard about the soldier who died at age 25.


To pay for the memorial, friends of Tucker sold T-shirts and bracelets and gathered small donations, raising about $75,000.


"We've had donations from England, from China - I mean, we have people who are interested in this from around the world," said K'lyn Bush, one of the memorial's planners.


Tucker and two other 101st Airborne Division soldiers were ambushed June 16, 2006, in a predominantly Sunni area just south of Baghdad. One soldier was found dead at the checkpoint site. The others were abducted, sparking a massive search effort by the military. Their mutilated bodies were found three days later, tied together and booby-trapped with roadside bombs.


Speakers during Sunday's 45-minute ceremony at Friendship Park included Madras Mayor Melanie Widmer, Bend Medal of Honor recipient Bob Maxwell and Col. Todd Ebel, the commander of the brigade combat team Tucker was serving in when he was killed.


"The soldier is always looking up to find someone who they can help," Maxwell said of the design. "His job is not always to pursue, chase down and destroy terrorists. He is there to preserve life, too. And he is there for service."


Ebel asked those in attendance to find a way to give back to other people as Tucker did in his military service.


"I can think of no more noble cause than to reach out and help your fellow man, whether in your community or in the challenging crucible of combat," he said. "Thomas' actions were noble, loyal and deserving of the tribute that is put on on his behalf."


Tucker's aunt, Robin Olson of Powell Butte, blinked back tears as the speakers took their turns at the podium and a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace."


"I think he would feel grateful," she told the Bend Bulletin after the ceremony. "He would be appreciative of people and know they were proud of him."

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