Military mom eagerly awaits dedication of memorial statue modeled after son

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial Foundation have begun plans to add four new bronze statues to the memorial. Monday, WHNT News 19 met a woman who will have a deeply personal connection to the aviator's statue.


Joyce Wilbourne dons wings pinned on her by son, Marine Captain Trey Wilbourne.

“We lost Trey in the first Gulf War,” the mom explains.

Captain Wilbourne was first listed as missing in action as teams searched for the wreckage of his aircraft in Kuwait.

“If the seat is intact, there's no hope, so we had three weeks of waiting until they got to the wreckage."

It was during a trip the Veterans Memorial, gazing on the bronze work of local artist and sculptor Dan Burch, that Joyce got an idea.

“Huntsville is such an aviation town, we have PEO Aviation on the arsenal, that we needed to recognize the aviators and the pilots."

Joyce set out on a nearly 2 year mission to have her son's face cast in bronze for all to see.

Dan Burch is utilizing photos and videos of Captain Wilbourne for facial modeling. The body model is Joyce Wilbourne's grandson Cole, who has similar stature and build as Trey.

The end result will feature elements of aviators from all branches of service. Due to generous donations from a dedicated community, the aviator statue is fully funded. It's a sight, upon completion, which is sure to fill Joyce Wilbourne with pride and joy.

“It will be a dream come true that it's actually going to happen,” Wilbourne says.

The Aviator's Statue and the Soldier's Cross are expected to be dedicated Veterans Day, 2015.

The Memorial Foundation is still looking for corporate sponsors and support from the community to make the next two statue additions come to life. Click here for information on how you can help by purchasing a memorial brick paver.