Local News

Bragg Soldiers Pay Tribute to Family of 'Iron Mike'

Posted September 28, 2007 7:37 a.m. EDT
Updated September 28, 2007 7:07 p.m. EDT

— The family of the man who posed for the "Iron Mike" statue was honored Friday at Fort Bragg.

Sgt. Maj. James Runyon, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, posed for the statue in 1961 – between tours of duty – to symbolize the heroism and sacrifice of the American soldier. Runyon died two years ago, but some of his relatives got their first up-close look at the bronze sculpture Friday.

"We heard about it for many years," said Runyon's sister, Mary Boyd, who noted that her children paid for her to travel from Pennsylvania to Fort Bragg for her birthday. "I'm very proud, very proud. It's hard to describe in words."

A Pittsburgh native, Runyon joined the Army after a brief stint in the city's steel mills.

"We were all mill workers, and he went in the mill. I think he worked 10 days and said, 'This ain't for me,'" said his brother, Daniel Runyon.

"Iron Mike," which is displayed at Fayetteville's Airborne and Special Operations Museum, has been a high-profile backdrop. President Bush, for example, spoke in front of it during a 2005 visit to Fort Bragg.

"I'll put it this way," Daniel Runyon said as he wiped away tears, "he was a helluva brother."

Thirteen members of James Runyon's family received small replicas of the statue to commemorate their visit.

"I got a special place for this thing. That's going to sit right in my living room," Daniel Runyon said.