Public art is dedicated as a tribute to the 101st Airborne Division
Montgomery County, TN — On the morning of August 13, members of the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell Command Staff, Montgomery County, City of Clarksville, business sponsors, and representatives from the County Public Art Ad hoc Committee gathered to honor the 101st Airborne Division with the reveal of the Tip of the Spear statue.
Created by artist Mark Aeling and his team in Clearwater, Florida, the sculpture is made of 10,000 pounds of surgical-grade stainless steel. Base included, the Tip of the Spear is an impressive 27-foot symbol of the strength and resilience of the 101st.
The Fort Campbell Honor Guard posted and retired the flags during the reveal ceremony. Director of Marketing for Roxy Theatre Donald Groves sang the National Anthem and City of Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts offered the prayer. Comments were made by Artist Mark Aeling, Chief of Staff of the 101st Airborne Division Col. Jared Bordwell, and Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett. The event was emceed by Clarksville Now Reporter Lee Erwin.
A project to honor Fort Campbell soldiers has been more than 10 years in the making. It began with Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett’s vision in 2012, while working in the private sector, to bring artwork near Fort Campbell that would be a lasting tribute to the men and women who served there. He shared his idea with friend Kem Hintom who was in Leadership Middle TN with him at the time and was also involved in the Wings of Liberty Museum project. Their original vision was 3-D laser steel artwork that looked like soldiers.
“I actually have a picture dated February 2012 of me and my good friend Jeff Truitt, who’s out here today, at this location looking at the vision. That was a long time ago, but good things take time. A group that bought into that vision back in 2012 and 2013. They included Dex Imaging, James Corlew Chevrolet, Planters Bank, Valerie Hunter-Kelly, the City of Clarksville, Jenkins & Wynne, Montgomery County, F&M Bank, Clarksville Pediatric Dentistry, US Bank, The Settlement Day Care, Clarksville Rotary Club, Wyatt Johnson, Inc., Gannett Foundation (Leaf-Chronicle), Legends Bank, Cumberland Bank & Trust, and Campbell Crossing. We raised $100,000, and that money sat there for a long time. We weren’t where we needed to be yet and did not know exactly what we wanted to build, and along came this idea to run for County Mayor, so that kind of sidetracked the project, but the dream never died. It was something I could always see as I drove up and down 41A to honor and recognize the service of the men and women at Fort Campbell,” said Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett.
Shortly after he was elected, Mayor Durrett and then Chief of Staff Jeff Truitt requested and received approval from the County Commission to create a public art fund. They put a public art ad hoc committee in place in 2017. Based on Mayor Durrett’s idea to include art near Fort Campbell to pay tribute to the men and women who served, the committee conducted a nationwide search and received over 80 submissions. The Tip of the Spear, by artist Mark Aeling, was selected, and the County entered into a contract with Aeling to construct and install the sculpture in late 2020.
Aeling, a self-proclaimed Army brat, is a 3D sculptor who lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and has earned multiple awards for excellence in the visual arts. His artwork can be seen around the Florida Bay Area and throughout the United States. In 2012, he was the only American whose work was chosen to show at the Stone Sculpture Triennial in Takamatsu, Japan.
“When I was selected as a finalist and did some research into the area, I was incredibly relieved to discover the connection to the 101st Airborne Division and the Screaming Eagles because I am a lover of birds and particularly wings because the magic of nature is pretty spectacular. As an artist, you try to find a thread to connect what you’re interested in with the interest of the commissioning body. To discover the relationship with Fort Campbell and the history of the 101st Airborne, it was a no-brainer which direction I wanted to go. To date, this is one of my favorite pieces,” remarked Aeling.
“Thank you for allowing us to participate as we recognize this incredible piece of art and join in this momentous occasion as we dedicate Mark Aeling’s Tip of the Spear to the homage of the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division. Without the unwavering support of our community leaders, our division mission would truly not be possible. This breathtaking artwork expands the Tip of the Spear phrase beyond the operational construct of the military. It is a trailblazing endeavor that spanned a decade of planning and development, a vision that embodies the voice and spirit of the community and the strength and courage of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers for over eight decades. Because of the vision of Mayor Durrett and his team, today, standing proudly at the gates of Fort Campbell stands the Tip of the Spear, greeting veterans, community, friends, and visitors from across the globe. This sculpture represents not only this community’s commitment to the men and women of the division but the resolve and dedication of community leaders to see this incredible vision through,” said Colonel Bordwell.
Mayor Durrett provided closing comments, “My family has a long history with Fort Campbell. My grandmother lived not even a quarter mile from this site, where she could go outside at night, walk all around her house, and not see a single light in any direction. Now to know that right across the street, you have the strongest, most lethal fighting force anywhere in the world is pretty special. We selected Mark almost a year and a half ago and were in constant contact with him throughout the project. Then all of a sudden, I get this email from Mark that says we’d like to come up and set it in August. I was like, whoa, I didn’t realize that was going to happen so quickly. But this is the great part about Clarksville, Montgomery County. When we found out Mark was ready to come to install the art, Chris Fielder with TTL laid it all out, but we didn’t have anybody to do anything more, so I reached out to a couple of friends and said, we’ve got this great big statue that we’re going to put up to honor Fort Campbell, and their response was what do I need to do. They all just jumped right in and didn’t ask any questions. I’ve lived here all my life and don’t want to live anywhere else. When you have something like this happen, and you make a phone call to a friend, and your friend says, hey, I’m all in without knowing what the consequences are, that’s what makes this community so great.”
Mayor Durrett offered special thanks to Josh Dennis with Dennis Concrete, Rex and Kendra Hawkins with Hawkins Homes, Phillip Hagewood with Moore Construction, Lance Morgan with Morgan Contractors, and Jeff Burkhart with Screaming Eagle Concrete. He shared his gratitude for David Smith, who took the time and effort to survey the property for the project at the beginning and work with TDOT for approval. Mayor Durrett also thanked the County Facilities and Maintenance Team for their hard work preparing the site.
“Clarksville, Montgomery County is a great place to live. It is my hope and my dream that this will be an everlasting legacy and monument to those who have served at Fort Campbell, those who are currently serving, and those who will serve,” added Mayor Durrett.
The sculpture is located at 3176 Patriots Park, Fort Campbell Blvd., between Gates 2 and 3. To view the ceremony, visit the Montgomery County, Tennessee Facebook Page.