Name Ronald W. Reagan Memorial
Location Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Material Limestone with Bronze Bust Depicting President Reagan
Specifications 150-foot long walkway that ends in a 50-foot diameter circle with a 2-foot-6-inch bust of President Reagan which sits on an 11-foot high pedestal.
Designer Bob Woods (Architect)

“Wouldn’t it be better to save lives than to avenge them? Are we not capable of demonstrating our peaceful intentions by applying all of our abilities and our ingenuity to achieving a truly lasting stability? I think we are indeed. Indeed, we must.”

– Excerpt from President Reagan’s March 23, 1983 SDI Speech engraved on the memorial’s plaque.

The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance was honored to be heavily involved in the creation of the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Site at Vandenberg Air Force Base which was completed in 2008.  The memorial pays homage to President Reagan’s visionary goal of rendering nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete. On April 10, 2006, the Missile Defense Site at Vandenberg Air Force Base was renamed the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site at a ceremony in the 76th Flight Test Squadron Hangar. At the same ceremony a bust, which was to be the centerpiece of the memorial, was unveiled by Former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Attendees at the ceremony included Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens; Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, vice commander of Air Force Space Command; Lt. Gen. Henry A. “Trey” Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency and Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. [1] Click here to read Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz’s speech from the dedication ceremony.

Ronnie felt so strongly that a security shield should be developed that destroys weapons, not people. He would be honored that this site overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean that he loved so much, will be a testament to his commitment to security and peace for America and the free world.

– Mrs. Nancy Reagan, Statement on the Dedication of the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site, April 10, 2006.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, escorted by Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, Director Defense Missile Agency helps Mr. Riki Ellison, Founder and President, Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, unveil a bust of President Ronald Reagan the dedication ceremony of the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, escorted by Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, Director Defense Missile Agency helps Mr. Riki Ellison, Founder and President, Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, unveil a bust of President Ronald Reagan the dedication ceremony of the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley. (Released)

The the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Site includes four Ground-based Interceptor silos. The memorial would serve as an ideal platform to view tests conducted. Shortly after the 2006 unveiling ceremony, Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens sponsored a project to construct a monument at the observation site. The project moved forward when the ground was broken by Riki Ellison, MDAA Chairman and Founder and Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander on August 29, 2007. [2]

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Riki Ellison, President and Founder of Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, and Col. Steven Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, break ground during a ceremony here on Aug. 29. The ceremony symbolized the beginning of construction of the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site Memorial that will honor the 40th U.S. president who made many contributions to a national missile defense program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cole Presley)

Construction on the memorial began in September of 2007 with target completion date of January 2008. [3] The dedication ceremony took place on March 27, 2008. The event coincided with the 25th anniversary of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative speech. Distinguished guests at the ceremony included Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency; Arizona Congressman Rep. Trent Franks; and Riki Ellison.[4] Below are remarks delivered by Mr. Ellison to mark the occasion.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Mr. Riki Ellison, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, and the Honorable Trent Franks stand for the playing of the Air Force song during the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Site dedication (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Satran)


Remarks by Riki Ellison at Dedication Ceremony

“Welcome to a Spectacular Day and a historic memorial to President Ronald Reagan and Missile Defense. The Memorial is as vast and limitless as President Reagan’s vision and hope for the Human Spirit and our ability to ensure it and defend it. It is appropriate that this memorial views the vast horizon and international borders of our nation. It is appropriate that this memorial over-looks the Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Site made up of 4 silos containing 3 ground based interceptors that are protecting our entire nation today from ballistic missiles. It is appropriate that this memorial faces the majestic view of our nation and the shining sea where dreams are made. It is fitting that this location and the design of this historic memorial be named after President Ronald Reagan and his vision for Missile Defense. This vista and monument is more than a testament to President Reagan, it is a Legacy. It is a Legacy to our generation. It is a Legacy that must go beyond what is in place today so that someday in the future we may see a day where missile defense has made ballistic missiles obsolete as delivery means of weapons of mass destruction. 25 years ago, the man we are honoring today asked whether we as a nation wanted a future that relied solely on Offensive Retaliation for our Security. He believed that the human spirit must be capable of rising above dealing with other nations and human beings by threatening their existence. He then challenged our military, our technology leaders and industrial base to find the way to defeat ballistic missiles. Yes the human spirit is capable of rising above and today 25 years later we celebrate that rise and the reality of the vision of Ronald Reagan.”

– Delivered by Riki Ellison at Ronald Reagan Missile Defense Site at Vandenberg Airforce Base, California on March 27, 2008


Timeline of Events

  • April 10, 2006 – Bronze bust and plaque unveiled on April 4, 2006 by Former First Lady Nancy Reagan during a dedication ceremony
  • August 29, 2007 – Vandenberg breaks ground for Reagan Memorial
  • September 2007 – Construction of the limestone memorial begins
  • March 27, 2008 – The 30th Space Wing and Missile Defense Agency hold dedication ceremony for the Ronald Reagan Memorial

President Reagan Bust by Lawrence Heyda

The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance donated the bust which serves as the centerpiece of of the Ronald W. Reagan Memorial. This bust was the work of sculptor Lawrence Heyda. Below is the story of how it came to be.

In 1991 the Ronald Reagan Foundation sent inquiries to bronze foundries across the country seeking a sculptor who could create a bust of the president for the Presidential Library. Lawrence Heyda, who was working as a sculptor in Visalia, CA, remitted to the Foundation numerous examples of his work, hoping to photograph Mr. Reagan and acquire a comprehensive photographic record of his features. Within a few weeks Mr. Heyda was offered the commission along with permission to photograph the President.

Ronald Reagan standing at the center of the device Mr. Heyda constructed to capture the President’s features

To make the most of his opportunity to photograph the President, the sculptor constructed a system with eight 35mm cameras placed equally around the perimeter of a large circular stand, such that all the cameras pointed to the center and all could be activated simultaneously. On the appointed day Mr. Heyda brought his setup to the offices of Mr. Reagan in Century City, CA. The Secret Service agent was surprised to see such an unusual device brought onto the premises and subsequently asked Mr. Heyda to stand in the center and fire off the cameras, just to be sure there were no safety issues. Once his system was approved by the office staff, Mr. Reagan appeared and Lawrence asked him if he would please stand at the center of the array, which he graciously did.

At first the sculptor did not know how to bring about the smile he wanted. Finally, Mr. Heyda told the President that, some day, he wanted to make a life size sculpture of him shaking hands with Mikhail Gorbachev, signaling the end of the Cold War.  At this, Mr. Reagan smiled broadly, and the eight cameras clicked in unison, capturing his expression from all sides. Mr. Reagan even extended his hand to allow Mr. Heyda to photograph the “handshake pose” that elicited just the right smile.

Lawrence Heyda sculpts the features of President Reagan

After a few months, Mr. Heyda finished the first bronze bust, based on the photographs he had taken. In April of 1991, the sculptor met Mrs. Reagan at the same Century City office and presented her with the bust. She said it was the best likeness ever created of her husband. Copies of the sculpture were later offered for sale in the Presidential Library gift shop and still are to this day.

Sometime after this, Mr. Riki Ellison, Chairman and Founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance contacted Mr. Heyda with the exciting idea of making a much larger bust for the missile launching site at Vandenberg. This bust was to be about three times bigger than the life size head commissioned by the Reagan Library. To preserve all the work that had gone into obtaining a likeness that pleased the First Lady, Mr. Heyda had the smaller head laser-scanned and sent to a company that could recreate the bust in rigid urethane foam for the larger size. Once the large foam piece was received, it was molded and recast in wax to begin adding details such as the hair and facial lines.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan poses with sculptor Lawrence Heyda holding the completed bust

Because the foam copy had obliterated all the fine detail, a new mold was made of the refined head and a final wax copy was created to be sent to a bronze foundry in Atlanta. The bronze was completed and patinated. A base was designed and the finished piece was sent to Vandenberg for the unveiling. Mrs. Reagan was present at Vandenberg Air Force Base to perform the historic gesture of unveiling the bust, and again she seemed very pleased with the artist’s work. Mr. and Mrs. Heyda also attended the ceremony and later toured the base.

Mr. Heyda is grateful to Mr. Ellison for his efforts toward making this historic sculpture a reality, which he considers to be one of the crowning achievements of his life.


Bob Woods Working Drawings of the Memorial

Woods_REAGAN_MEMORIAL_Drawing

References

[1] http://www.afspc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/251518/vandenberg-missile-defense-site-named-after-president-reagan

[2] http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/341027/vandenberg-breaks-ground-for-reagan-memorial

[3] Ibid

[4] http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/340874/memorial-honors-reagans-vision-leadership


 

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