Fayetteville, N.C. — A statue of retired Army Gen. Hugh Shelton was unveiled Friday outside the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
A native of Speed, Shelton served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the Special Forces. He also helped lead the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm and led a multinational peacekeeping force in Haiti following the overthrow of the government.
Shelton commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg before being named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1997.
He retired from the Army in 2001.
"This is by far the most humbling experience that I have ever had – bar none," Shelton said. "The only thing better would be if it didn't look so much like me. It would have been prettier."
The statue was donated by billionaire businessman and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, a longtime friend of Shelton's.
"He's one of the finest men I've ever known," Perot said. "He's done more for our soldiers than anyone I've ever known."
Artist Paul Moore of Norman, Okla., whose work has appeared in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, sculpted the statue.
Shelton summed up his reaction to seeing the statue in two words: "Wow and thanks."
The statue should serve as a tribute to all men and women who have served in the armed forces, he said.
"I view this statue as an honor for our men and women in uniform. It's got my name on it, but I'm very humble to be a symbol of them and the great work that they do," he said.
The statue stands near another well-known symbol: The "Iron Mike" statue dedicated to 82nd Airborne paratroopers, which was moved from Fort Bragg to the museum in June. The surrounding area is being developed as a state park to honor North Carolina's military tradition and veterans.
"(This) shows that a youngster from eastern North Carolina can, through hard work and diligence and the support of a lot of great men and women in uniform, can reach the highest position in this nation's military," Shelton said. "I've been supported by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. With a team like that, you can't fail."