For those who have not moseyed on over to the All Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake recently, don’t fall off your horse when you see a white half-Arabian stallion mounted there.
The AVM War Horse is the newest element located at the War Horse Memorial at the AVM. Its unveiling and dedication was held this past Memorial Day, Monday, May 31. The steed is a replica of Blueskin, one of George Washington’s two primary mounts during the American Revolutionary War.
The Daughters of the American Revolution in Morris County sponsored the horse at the AVM; several local businesses and volunteers played a part in getting Blueskin to its new paddock.
Men and women are memorialized at the AVM with their pavers and numerous wars they have fought, and so are dogs at the War Dog Memorial. The new War Horse Memorial is one of its kind and recognizes those brave stallions that also played a part on and off the battlefield.
"Horses have played a major role in battles since the beginning of time,” says AVM Founder Charlie Uhrmann. “We are the first to have a War Dog Memorial and now the first Veterans memorial to honor the horses that were sacrificed during wartime.”
Uhrmann has been straddling the idea to honor horses for a few years.
"It has always been in the back of our minds but resonated around two and a half years ago after receiving a request from a Mt. Olive resident who lives in close proximity to the park and who frequently visits the AVM,” says Uhrmann.
Located right next to the War Dog Memorial, the horse statue is the “Actual size of Blueskin; made of a fiberglass component,” says Uhrmann. “It was sprayed with the same type of lacquer as a car and baked.”
She thanks Ken Auto Body in Ledgewood for donating all the labor and materials, as well as Karl Meier, “as always with the technical and construction;” Eileen Schlisser from Home Depot, the artist; Phoenix in Flanders for providing the warehouse for Schlisser to paint the horse; and Frank Huenkle from Diamond Sand and Gravel for donating all the concrete.
The "horse is so massive,” says Uhrmann, adding that she could not get it to the memorial without the other key players. She needed to secure a warehouse, arrange for delivery, seek a painter and an expert to add finishing touches.
“It’s how we’ve always worked; we have to have a team,” says Uhrmann. “I come up with ideas,” adding that she "doesn’t have a crane to move a horse.”
Projects of this magnitude involve a sponsor, investor, shipper and painter.
Uhrmann did decide on the horse Blueskin and the replica to paint.
"It was originally going to be Sergeant Reckless – but since Blueskin was from the same war era and most likely walked in the area before arriving to the Delaware River – it made sense,” says Uhrmann.
“There’s like a million paintings of Blueskin,” Uhrmann notes during an interview with “Mt. Olive Online.” In her search for accuracy, she was going to use the famous painting in the Smithsonian but then decided on a painting at the Museum of Charleston by John Trumble, an artist who served as an officer under Washington, commissioned to paint the president and his horses.
Trumble “did the original painting; he stood for him to paint. That’s whose rendering we will be using.”
While she knew of her obstacles in securing this new element, Uhrmann did not buckle under pressure.
“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway,” a famous quote by John Wayne, can be related to the depth and detail Uhrmann took to get her horse memorial to fruition.
“Meier Stone Company accepted Blueskin, then transported him to warehouse, Ledgewood and to the memorial site,” says Uhrmann.
“Had it not been for all Karl Meier’s generosity, help and support throughout the years – we would not have this memorial site,” says Uhrmann.
No Horsin’ Around
While the elements at the AVM may look like play sculptures for kids, Uhrmann reminds the community that the AVM is not a playground and must be treated with respect.
“The War Dog Memorial is extremely popular with our visitors, especially children,” says Uhrmann, adding that she suspects the horse memorial will be just as popular.
While it is nice to see that children are interested in the monuments, she asks that the structures be used for viewing and learning.
“I think it is important for parents to teach their children to respect the memorial,” says Uhrmann. “While working at the AVM for the past three weeks – I have watched children throw rocks at the memorials and play in the memorial as if the AVM was a playground. The children are doing a considerable amount of damage to the displays while their parents look on. Each year we find ourselves repairing things that are being damaged by young children. This is very disappointing that parents allow their children to wreak havoc to a Veterans memorial.”
To help, Uhrmann is always looking for donations to help with the upkeep at the AVM, which is a 100% non-profit.
“We always are looking for donations to maintain and repair the monuments and platforms at the complex,” says Uhrmann. “We would like to add a 30” fence around the War Horse Memorial to keep children from climbing on it – this cost was not considered – but necessary.”
The elements by the AVM have either been funded by Uhrmann or through sponsors.
The Daughters of the Revolution, Morris County sponsored the War Horse Memorial, she says, not specifying the cost.
“The statue of Blueskin represents all the tenants of the NSDAR's objectives,” explains Regent Carrie T. Efinger, of Somerset, of the Morristown Chapter NSDAR. “It is also local to our chapter, the Morristown Chapter, and we love being involved with our community.
“What better way to honor General George Washington, a veteran himself, with a beautiful statue of one of his war horses?” she says. “General Washington was known for his excellent riding abilities.”
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) was founded in 1890 with three objectives: History, Education, and Patriotism, explains Efinger. “As a society, now made up of over 3,000 chapters in all 50 states and in some foreign countries, have supported our Veterans from our beginnings.”
The local DAR chapter knew since last year’s Memorial Day program that it would like to get more involved with the AVM and offer a sponsorship.
“We became involved with the AVM last year during the Memorial Day program,” says Efinger. “We were invited to lay wreaths. A nice relationship grew, and we were asked if the Blueskin statue would be something we would be interested in sponsoring.”
Also not specifying the amount of the sponsorship, Efinger says “We did sponsor the entire project. All monies were privately donated by members of the Morristown Chapter.”
This is not DAR’s first rodeo at the AVM.
“Besides participation with wreath laying, many chapter members have purchased pavers honoring their own personal Veterans,” says Efinger. “This year we also had many members donate pavers honoring their American Revolution Ancestor, veterans of the American Revolutionary War.”
While there technically is no connection between the DAR and Blueskin, Efinger explains why that horse.
“Blueskin was one of two horses ridden by General George Washington throughout the entire American Revolution,” says Efinger. “The general and both horses survived every battlefield, and all three retired to Mount Vernon at the end. We honor Blueskin to stand next to the War Dogs at AVM knowing that these animals played major roles in helping our men and women in battle over the span of centuries.”
The DAR takes great pride in sponsoring the AVM War Horse and hope many take time to visit and appreciate all that it represents.
“We are quite proud,” says Efinger. “We hope that those who visit this magnificent memorial take a few moments to realize the sacrifices of all for our country.
“The Morristown Chapter proudly supports our veterans,” says Efinger. “Other things we do besides our work with the AVM are many. Every fall we collect items most needed by veterans. The past few years it has been backpacks and cold weather gear for local homeless veterans. During Covid-19 thousands of handmade masks were made by Chapter members and donated to New Jersey Veteran Homes and to homeless veterans. The chapter's big project each year is to hand make 21 bed quilts which are distributed to N.J. Veteran Homes. The N.J. State Regent's project for her three-year term is Semper Fido. All donations to this organization provide a service dog trained to help and nurture a healing bond with veterans suffering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries.”
Proud To Help
Other volunteers also commented on their involvement with the AVM War Horse and how they were grateful they could help.
“I just helped Charlie however I could with this project,” says Karl Meier of Morristown, owner of Meier Stone Co. in Flanders for 40 years before recently retiring.
“It's her idea that she talks to me about, and then we agree on how to make it best work with the limited funds she has,” says Meier.
“This whole project has been completed with the help of various local companies donating time and or materials.”
Active with the AVM for the past 15 years, helping Uhrmann with the elements and memorials, Meier’s “company transported the horse via on flatbed truck once it was delivered to my yard and the horse was painted.”
Meier says “I did not serve,” but he honors those that have. “It’s my pleasure to give back to the men and women that have served our country. It's been my pleasure to work on this whole AVM project.”
Meier had reached out to Mike Coulson of Flanders, president of Phoenix Machine Builders, LLC, in Roxbury Twp., and “asked if we could spare some warehouse space to store a horse. Kind of an odd request but when I found out the reason, I was happy to help,” says Coulson.
“No money was involved, just warehouse space,” says Coulson.
“Phoenix designs and fabricates manufactured process machinery specific to the web handling industry,” he explains. “It's an industry the general public knows nothing about, but our machinery manufactures many of the consumer, commercial and industrial items used every day.
“Happy to help,” Coulson says his father was in the Army, and served two tours in Vietnam. “Retired disabled as a Lieutenant Colonel,” he says of his dad. “Passed away in 2003 due to various complications. I am appreciative of all those that serve and have served."
Although his connection to the project was through Meier, Coulson says, “I am very happy to have met Charlie. Her selfless dedication to the AVM is inspiring.
As a Mt. Olive resident, I appreciate the extreme amount of effort and dedication that has gone into AVM. l take great pride in having such an important memorial right here in our town. The freedoms we enjoy everyday have been guaranteed by those who have sacrificed for this country, including my father. AVM is a fitting memorial to all those that have served. I'm extremely appreciative of the efforts of Charlie, Karl and all the other members and volunteers that make the memorial possible and allow for continued growth.”
Artist Steps Up To Paint
Eileen Schissler of Mt. Olive, who works as an associate support department supervisor at the Roxbury Home Depot, says “I was asked by Charlie if I knew of anyone who would be able to paint the War Horse.” With that being a "no," she says, “I volunteered to paint the Horse for Charlie. I agreed to help out as I have in the past with other projects at the AVM.
“My father is a Korean War veteran and I believe the AVM plays an important role in teaching others about the sacrifices made by the men and women of the military,” she says.
With donations from Home Depot and some vacation time, Schlisser was able to complete her task at hand.
“My request for donations were met by the store manager Jimmy Gress of the Roxbury Home Depot,” says Schlisser. “Paint and supplies totaled $250. I was lucky to have two vacation days that I needed to use before my anniversary date at work! I used that time to paint the horse.”
Schlisser says she used “High quality acrylic paint” to paint the AVM War Horse.
“I did not count the coats of paint,” she says. “I can tell you that it did take several coats to achieve the shading using a dry brush blending technique.”
To get the horse to look like a replica, she says, “I was provided several photos of the horse to work off of. Before and after photos were taken of the horse so I was able to see the transformation.”
As an employee of Home Depot for 30 years, and in her current role for eight- responsible for staffing, training, and associate development- she admits to no special skill or certification as a painter.
“I have never painted a statue of this scale before,” says Schlisser. “I do not have any certifications as a painter. I have always painted as a hobby.”
Volunteering for this project and at the AVM has deeper meaning to Schlisser.
“My father is 90 years old and is a veteran of the Korean War, also known as the forgotten war,” says Schlisser. “I have always helped out at Team Depot Builds at AVM. I met Charlie at one of the Team Depot projects at the park. I have painted the large cannon and the mural of Arlington Cemetery in the park as well.
“I am proud to work for a company that does so much for our military and communities,” she says. “Home Depot has always been involved with AVM, taking on many projects over the years. I hope that I honor the sacrifices that my own father made during his time in service as well as all the men and women that serve!”
Ken’s Auto Body in Ledgewood, which has been serving customers in surrounding areas since 1968, “also donated time and paint, putting the final coat on Blueskin.
“This was a group effort by Ken’s Auto Body, led by the owners Ronnie Lipps and Eddie Korpos,” says Ronnie Lipps, owner of Ken’s Auto Body. “We have the utmost respect for our country’s veterans and feel privileged to help such a worthwhile organization. We were asked by Carl Meier of Meier Stone if we would help by painting the horse, and we are happy to give back to the community whenever possible.”
Another key player in getting the project to stick is Frank Huenkle from Diamond Sand and Gravel Sparta Reddimix in Sparta for donating all the concrete.
“I was happy to donate any materials that we could for Charlie and her cause,” says Huenkle. “I admire her persistence, passion and work ethic for this project especially because it honors our nation’s greatest heroes. In this day and age, I think we forget how we got here, and I am thankful for people like her.”
Excited by this one-of-a kind memorial in Mt. Olive, Mt. Olive Twp. Council Vice President Alex Roman described the AVM War Horse as “A gem that’s the envy of the Northeast!”