He just finished in a year's time a project he normally would have taken three years to complete. But the rewards outweigh the exhaustion, said Brothers, who has become something of a celebrity for his work on the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.
"To get this kind of acclaim for your work -- only movie stars get that," Brothers said Tuesday from his North Lawrence studio.
He and his partner, Kathy Correll, were VIP guests at the memorial dedication June 6, the 57th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Brothers said he felt overwhelmed while walking up the ramp to the top of the memorial wall. Complete strangers among the estimated 16,000 to 18,000 people in attendance said, "Hi, Jim" and "You did a good job, Jim."
"I had tears in my eyes," he said.
Brothers signed autographs for almost eight hours that day.
"Some of the people who were thanking me were vets," he said. "I tried to thank them because they're the ones we ought to be getting autographs from."
Correll manages Heartland Art Bronze, the foundry where Brothers' sculptures were cast. She said taking part in the production process and attending the dedication had special meaning.
"It's allowed me to repay some debts I have to the generations of my parents and grandparents," she said. "So much of this work is solitary. It's very rewarding when it's all done and people respond to it in a positive way."
Brothers expressed ambivalence about President Bush's presence at the dedication. The Lawrence artist said he was given the option to shake hands with the president, but he declined because the ceremony wasn't about the president -- it was about the vets.
"He waved as he walked by," Brothers said. "The fact that he attended brought more national attention to everything. The nice thing is that it can go back to the vets. We can't lose sight of who it's for."
Last month, Brothers and a crew delivered the last five of eight figures that now grace the memorial grounds. Brothers is commissioned to create 16 figures. His next deadline for the monument is Memorial Day, 2002, when he hopes to have two or three more figures complete.
"Hopefully, they'll want sculptures for a long time, because I'm willing to do it," he said. "It's a worthwhile cause."
Since returning from the dedication, he has been offered more work than he may be able to accept right away.
"I like the commissions coming in, but I hope it slows down a little," Brothers said.
In the meantime, he has until Oct. 5 to finish an 8-foot bronze sculpture called "Citizen Soldier" that will stand as the Veterans of Foreign Wars national monument at the organization's headquarters in Kansas City, Mo.
With "Citizen Soldier" and the pieces he has yet to create for the D-Day monument, Brothers said he hopes to convey emotions and stories that transcend barriers of time and place.
"Even though I may be putting them in the clothes of the day, the faces of the young soldiers are the same," Brothers said. "Even Vietnam vets look at the faces and say, 'I know these guys.'"
-- Staff writer Mindie Miller can be reached at 832-7187.