COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - It is the crowning jewel of the National Infantry Museum- the "Follow Me" statue.
And the man who modeled for the patriotic mold is Major Eugene Wyles.
As the monument marked its 50th birthday Monday, Wyles remembered the tedious work that went into making it.
"They had to measure every part of me- my nose, my ear lobes, everything and made it twice the size that I am so it's exactly twice my size. That's how they did it- they measured my fingers, everything," Major Wyles said.
A veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Wyles was 26 years old and an Officer Candidate when he posed for the monument.
"As far as the statue goes, I've never looked upon it as being me. That is the Infantry and that's those guys that don't get any publicity that it represents. It's not me- it's those dead friends that I left laying in the rice patties," he said.
"It's been a rallying point, a symbol for the Infantry for the last fifty years. There's been so many soldiers that have marched by it, had their picture taken in front of it, wedding proposals- you name it, it's happening every day here at Fort Benning and at the Infantry statue. It really is the glue that holds us together," added Major General Jerry White of the National Infantry Museum.
The "Follow Me" statue at the Infantry Museum is the original.
A duplicate was made several years ago in bronze. That statue is located on the grounds of the former Infantry headquarters, also known as Ridgeway Hall as renovations are underway at Maneuver Hall.
It is sometimes referred to as "The Infantryman." Actually, an older statue by that name is still on Fort Benning. It is currently located in a park on Edwards Street, across from Eubanks Field.
Another common, but mistaken, nickname for the Fort Benning "Follow Me" statue is "Iron Mike." The best-known "Iron Mike" statue is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Major Wyles lives in Louisiana. He is retired from the Army.