MOORE — The May 20 tornado in Moore ripped trees from their roots and branches from their trunks, but two long-deceased trees stood strong as the Veterans Memorial Park was torn apart around them.
In 2009, four trees in the park died, but instead of simply cutting them down, the city of Moore staff decided to do something special for the Moore Veterans Memorial being built in the park at the time. They removed the trees and sent them to Clayton Coss, a chainsaw artist in Inola.
Coss’ chainsaw magic transformed the dead trees into four life-size wooden soldiers, each representing a major war since the end of World War I: World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Afghanistan/Iraq War. More than 200 people came to watch the dedication of the soldiers at a ceremony on May 15, 2010, according to the city of Moore website.
Three years and five days later, a tornado that packed more than 200 mph winds ravaged Moore along with the community’s Veterans Memorial Park. Trees were stripped bare, telephone poles fell to the ground and fencing, bathrooms, a playground and a pavilion were all destroyed.
Two of the wooden soldiers were torn from their mountings and knocked over, but two remained standing through the storm, Coss said. Three of the four statues’ rifles broke off, but everything that was damaged can be repaired.
The statues are now back with their sculptor in Inola, where they will be repaired and hopefully returned to their home in Moore by Veterans Day, Moore Assistant City Manager Stan Drake said.
“I’m going to try to turn it around in two weeks, but recarving rifles takes quite a bit of work,” Coss said.
The rest of the park’s damage will be assessed and repaired once the city has finished clearing debris out of the area, which is already mostly done, Drake said.
Once the debris is removed, one of the first steps is to clear and repair the park’s walking trail, Drake said.
“(The trail) was very popular, so we’re trying to fix it so they can use it again,” he said.
Once the trail is accessible again, Moore residents will be able to use it while the city works to repair and reconstruct the rest of the park, Drake said.
The park’s reconstruction, which a lot of is being paid for by insurance, will include a new playground, fencing, bathrooms and a pavilion as well as some features the park didn’t have before, Drake said.