DENVER (KDVR) — After five years in the making, a Loveland artist unveiled a sculpture that will soon be part of a new national monument in Washington D.C.

The sculpture was unveiled over the weekend at a private event in Loveland, and it will be moved to the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial, which is currently being built near the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the National Mall, according to a press release.

Robert Eccleston, a U.S. Army veteran from Loveland, designed the sculpture to commemorate the historical significance of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, which were the first major foreign crises for the U.S. after the Cold War, according to the memorial website.

The United States was one of 34 nations in a coalition that united to liberate Kuwait from Iraq and defend Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula from further invasion, the National Desert Storm Memorial Association said.

The sculpture features two intricately detailed raptors, an eagle and a falcon, parallel to each other will their full wings spanning as though they are soaring in the air.

“The dedication and artistic talent displayed by Robert Eccleston in creating the raptors sculpture for the memorial is truly commendable,” John Keene, State Commander of Veterans of
Foreign Wars Colorado said. “Being a Desert Storm veteran myself, I find special meaning in the fact that such an important element of the memorial is coming from my state.”

The significance of the sculpture

Eccleston said the memorial is more of an uplifting memorial than a somber memorial. He said the raptors represent the role that the U.S. played as a leader of the coalition.

“It has to express a level of joy and liberation and freedom that was attained when we liberated them from Iraq,” Eccleston explained.

He said that, unlike other sculptures, he had to learn a lot about how raptors fly and how they think in order to sculpt them in a way that represents the power and leadership of the American bald eagle and the liberation and freedom of the Saker falcon, which is the national bird of Kuwait.

The bald eagle soaring above the desert symbolizes the U.S. as a liberator rather than an occupier, and the falcon ascends in an upward trajectory symbolizing the liberation of the Kuwaiti people.

Eccleston studied the birds down to how each individual feather lays and even spent time with a live bald eagle.

“It’s kind of neat because you get to see the personality of the eagle versus a photo which is just a moment in time,” he said.

Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield

In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The United States responded with Operation Desert Shield, organizing a coalition of 34 countries to defend Saudi Arabia and ultimately liberate Kuwait.

By November, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were ready to defend Saudi Arabia.

On Jan. 17, 1991, the mission became Operation Desert Storm when the airfare war began. Air attacks went on for several weeks.

Battles on the ground began on Feb. 24, and U.S. and allied forces defeated Iraq by Feb. 28, and Kuwait was liberated.

The memorial has been in the making for over 10 years. Ground was broken on July 14, 2022 and the National Desert Storm Memorial Association said it hopes to dedicate the completed memorial in 2025. The raptor sculpture is expected to arrive in late 2024 or early 2025.