America's Response Monument; The Horse Soldier
Mike and I recently had the opportunity to visit New York City to cross off at least two “Bucket List Destinations” – both centered around equestrian history and art. Rosa Bonheur’s monumental painting, “The Horse Fair”, located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was one destination.
Our second “Bucket List Destination” was Liberty Park — home to an equestrian monument of more recent history—the America’s Response Monument overlooking the National 9-11 Memorial. I become aware of this incredible statue last year while researching other equestrian monuments. I mentioned the topic to my sister, Sharon, who immediately asked if I’d seen the movie, “12 Strong”. The movie, starring Chris Hemsworth, is based on the book “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton and tells the true story of the American 'Horse Soldiers' of Afghanistan – the first U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan after 9/11. Sharon and Chris had just watched the movie and the America’s Response Monument (aka De Oppresso Liber) was shown at the end of the film along with the following postscript:
"Against overwhelming odds, all twelve members of the U.S. Army Special Forces ODA 595 survived their mission. The capture of Mazar-i-Sharif by the Horse Soldiers and their counterparts is one of the US military's most stunning achievements. Military planners predicted it would take two years. Task Force Dagger did it in three weeks.....In 2012, to honor their extraordinary heroism, a statue of a Horse Soldier was dedicated at the World Trade Center site."
Once I saw photos of the monument, I knew that someday I wanted to see it in person. That’s how Liberty Park became our destination on that Monday afternoon.
Sculpted by internationally renowned artist Douwe Blumberg (a man no stranger to horses), the statue was commissioned anonymously, dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 2011 and rededicated in 2012 when it was placed at it’s current location in Liberty Park overlooking the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The monument commemorates the service of America’s Special Operations forces and their response to 9/11. In a quote from The American Legion post “War Sculptor”, Blumberg states, “Being a military history nut, an ex-horseman and a patriot, I was just blown away by the image of this 21st-century high-tech soldier on what could have been a 15th-century Afghan horse. It was iconic and ironic at the same time, on so many levels. First, the adaptability of these guys – they weren't trained on horseback. They just climbed up and went ... the first Americans to ride into combat on horses in over 50 years. So I see this picture and said, 'I have to do this.”
Having seen it in person, Mike and I are even more thankful we made the trip! And thankful that Douwe did “do this”— create a beautifully detailed, fitting tribute, not only to the Horse Soldiers, but to the equine mounts who carried them in them throughout their mission.