It appears the media made a bigger deal out of this than what really happened.
(CNSNews.com) - A fallen hero from the war in Afghanistan will be honored as planned with a statue in his hometown of Littleton, Colo., city officials confirmed Monday.
A row erupted last week when two women raised concerns about the location of the statue honoring Danny Dietz, a Navy seal who was ambushed and killed during combat in Afghanistan two years ago -- because the statue depicted him holding a rifle. The statue, sculpted by artist Robert Henderson, was modeled after a picture of Dietz.
No one objected to honoring Dietz for his heroism, insisted Emily Cassidy, a mother of two children in Littleton. What she objected to was a statue of a soldier, holding a weapon, located across the street from an elementary school and near two other schools.
"It should be used as a learning tool. Don't just pluck it down in the middle of children," Cassidy told Cybercast News Service. "In their eyes, it's just a nine-foot guy with a gun."
Issues of guns and schools are a sensitive point in Littleton, Cassidy noted, because of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, when two teenage students shot dead 12 fellow students and a teacher before killing themselves.
"The city of Littleton has a stigma, whether they like it or not," Cassidy said. "We are known to the nation for what happened at Columbine. In light of that, it's not appropriate to have that particular statue in that particular location."
She stressed she wasn't comparing the school shooters to the soldiers, but said the statue should go somewhere more appropriate such as the "middle of city center."
At this stage, it would be almost impossible to change the location of the statue, said Kelli Narde, director of communications for Littleton.
"The location was purposely chosen in the neighborhood he grew up in near the elementary school and middle school he attended," Narde told Cybercast News Service.
"It's a stretch to compare a memorial to a war hero and the Columbine shooters," she said. "It's hard to imagine how you could find a connection between the two."
The protest came as a surprise, Narde said, but the project will go forward with a presentation of the statue on July 4.
The local community weighed in, and the city received 390 calls and e-mails in support of the statue's planned placement. Only four messages opposing the plan came in, Narde said.
'No point now in a petition'
Although Cassidy said she didn't know the number, she said a "large group, a majority" of the people she had spoken to had similar concerns about the location of the statue.
She and a friend, Linda Cuesta, have handed out fliers on the matter; but she sees no point in starting a petition drive now.
"We were told there is no negotiating. I don't know what a petition would accomplish," she said.
Over the weekend, Cassidy said, she received angry phone calls and e-mails, and someone even knocked on her door to complain about her stance. She blamed the reaction on local media coverage, which she felt portrayed her as opposing a memorial to Dietz outright.
"Any pain I caused the family, I regret," she said.
The family could not be reached for comment Monday, but Dan Dietz, Danny's father, told the Denver Post: "It broke our hearts. My son was fighting for her freedom to do exactly what she is doing. She put my son in the same category as Columbine. How does she have the audacity to do that?"
There are thousands of military monuments in the United States, and a large portion of them feature weapons, Tim Minz, the city's museum director, said in a memo.
"Service weapons, usually sheathed or unsheathed cavalry sabers or swords, appear in many of the 56 martial-themed statues in the District of Columbia," the memo said. "The Colorado state capitol in Denver has two military statues on the grounds, a civil war monument/memorial with a Union soldier with a gun in hand, and a statue of Joseph P. Martinez, the first Hispanic Coloradan to receive the Medal of Honor, carrying a service weapon."
Danny Dietz was awarded the Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism in actions against the enemy" while serving in a four-man special reconnaissance team in Afghanistan, according to the citation. "Petty Officer Dietz fought valiantly against the numerically superior and positionally advantaged enemy force."
There are other violent images that could influence children far more than a statue, said Allan Stone, a member of the Littleton Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which helped raise $42,000 to build the statue.
"The Navy gave this guy the second-highest honor," Stone said. "If they object to children seeing guns, they better object to every TV in the house. They'll see more guns there than anywhere else."
The city of Littleton became involved in the project at the request of Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.).
"Tom supports the Dietz family wholeheartedly," Tancredo spokesman Carlos Espinosa said.
"Danny's statue should be looked [upon] as [depicting] a hero, an example of the best to come from the U.S.," Espinosa added. "There should be no shame and no controversy. People are upset for the wrong reasons."