The sculpture depicts a series of scenes based on the myth of “the hero’s journey,” in which a recurring figure of an American soldier embarks on a quest, wins victory in an epic struggle, and comes home changed by his passage through peril. The soldier also represents, on a second level, the American experience of World War I.
The sculpture is the work of Sabin Howard, who together with architect Joseph Weishaar won the competition to redesign Pershing Park as a national World War I memorial. Howard began by viewing thousands of photographs of the war. He then brought actors and models into his studio, where he posed them in scenes inspired by his research. Rather than putting them into static, artificial poses, he gave them stage directions to move through a scene, and then captured the motion in more than 12,000 photos.