Elkhorn City unveils elk honoring veterans

A soldier returning from combat and embracing a small child is painted on the rear leg of the elk. Christopher Epling, the artist of this piece and a veteran, said it was important to him to honor not only those who returned from combat, but those who did not return as well.

The latest addition to the Elkhorn City elk project honors those men and women who have served their country in the United States military.

The eighth elk statue is located across from Community Trust Bank on West Russell Street. The elk sits under an American flag.

Ricky Bingham and his wife, Wilma, contributed the funds for the elk. Ricky said the elk, which paints a picture of Elkhorn City over the last century, stands in honor of those who have served in the United States military, including his son, Ricky Jr., who served in the U.S. air force.

“Our son served 25 years in the air force,” said Ricky. “We were all too happy to do this in his honor.”

On the back of the elk is a list of names of those from the area who have served in the military, with a blank space for more names to be added later.

Ricky’s goal was to have the elk paint a picture of life for those from the area who went on to serve in the military over the last century. On the back left leg of the elk, coal miners can be seen working in the mines. As the painting progresses up the left side of the elk and to the front, miners are shown being drafted and enlisting into war and, on the opposite side of the elk, some of those miners are seen returning home from war. Each branch of the military is represented, with their four emblems painted along the elk’s neck. The elk’s horns are painted to resemble an American flag.

Ricky said the elk has been two years in the making. He said he and his family are pleased with the outcome of the project.

Christopher Epling is the artist behind the elk. Epling painted the seventh elk as well, which is located in front of Elkhorn Drug.

Epling is a veteran himself. He said this project was particularly important to him.

“Even though I’ve served, I’ve been to war, there are a lot of people that go (to war) and don’t come home,” said Epling. “I knew that, more than anything, I wanted this to be for them.”

Epling said he looked at this project as a way to thank those who have passed away while serving their country.

The elk is painted with acrylic paint with a clear coat added to protect the paint from weathering. Epling encourages people to take photos with the elks, but, he said, caution should be used when touching those structures, as damage can occur.

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