200-ton tribute greets heroes to Warrior's Weekend (w/video)

Warrior Weekend sand sculptures in Port O'Connor.
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PORT O'CONNOR - Last year, a volunteer etched a name into the killed in action wall that was part of the sand sculpture created for Warrior's Weekend.

A sand sculptor, Gloria Fric, also known as The Dragon Lady, described what happened next:

"He was my best friend," said the soldier to the wall writer as he pointed to his buddy's name.

A woman standing nearby with her husband asked the soldier to which name he was pointing.

"Oh, that's my son," she told the soldier. "Can you tell me how he was killed?"

The threesome walked away together in deep conversation.

This year, Fric, of Victoria, created the 200-ton sand sculpture in front of the Port O'Connor Community Center with a core group of seven other sand sculptors.

The sculpture honors the more than 800 soldiers who travel to Port O'Connor from across the country for an all-expense paid weekend of fishing and fun.

Three master sculptors are involved with the project, and as many as 20 volunteers help in various other ways.

The team used a concrete packer to fill wooden frames with sand and water. They deposited the layers of sand like graduating layers of a 15-foot wedding cake.

On May 1, the team began carving the sculpture from top to bottom. They sprayed the sand intermittently with a mixture of Elmer's Glue and water to hold it in place.

"This is how we show the soldiers that we care about them and that their sacrifices were not in vain," Fric said. "They are so thankful, humble and well-mannered. I'm proud to know they fought for us."

The work of art will last two to three months after the weekend is over.

To help make the tedious work more fun, the workers are given nicknames to carry them through the weekend.

Fric designed the box-shaped sculpture with the new Warrior's Weekend logo. An inside wall honors all branches of the military with designs, while the other inside walls remain smooth. They await the names of the soldiers who attend the weekend fishing event, their buddies who were killed in action and other veterans of war the soldiers and their families want to honor.

Outside walls welcome the soldiers to Warrior's Weekend and celebrate the fishing life. Names of eight area soldiers killed in action during the war on terror live in a special place on the sculpture.

Another special feature is the image of Colton Rusk, a Marine killed in action, and his faithful war dog, Eli, a black Labrador retriever.

The dog was adopted by Rusk's family and still lives with them, Fric said.

Geisha, a war dog that Fric's friend trained during the Vietnam War, keeps watch from atop the sand sculpture.

"When the soldiers drive up in the buses, it's priceless to see the images of their faces," said Paul McGee, a.k.a. Slick Wall Paul, a Port O'Connor volunteer. "We see their appreciation as we show our appreciation."

Another sculptor, John Woodworth, a.k.a. Sand Dad, called his participation in the project a privilege. He helped with the project the first time just to hang out with his friend, Fric.

"After that, how can you not have a connection with all of the soldiers," said Woodworth, of Leander. "If you don't understand, come one time."

Dana Wright, a.k.a. Sanddana, called her work on the sculpture a labor of love.

"It is a small thing to do to show our appreciation to men and women in uniform," said Wright, of Placedo. "They don't think they are heroes."

Heroes wear dog tags not capes, Fric said.