Family members of President Dwight D. Eisenhower joined state officials Monday in unveiling a bronze statue at the Statehouse grounds of the Kansan who commanded allied forces during World War II.

Gov. Jeff Colyer, Mary Eisenhower Atwater and Kathleen Correll, the wife of late sculptor Jim Brothers, celebrated the general's legacy before a crowd that included Ellinwood High School students and retired Lt. Col. Eliot Potter, a Topekan who tallied 53 bombing missions over Italy to pave the way for the invasion of Europe.

Correll said the artist wanted to capture Eisenhower's physical appearance, so he would be easily recognized, but also wanted to tell a story. The artwork shows Eisenhower in uniform, wearing medals of accomplishments and a class ring from West Point, addressing troops before the invasion at Normandy, code-named Operation Overlord and commonly known as D-Day.

"All of those things speak to his military experience and his position as the person who has responsibility for the fate of 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft, 150,000 soldiers from 12 countries, and the fate of the free world at his hands on the night he announces they will launch Operation Overlord," Correll said. "The weather has been bad. The weather is predicted to continue to be bad, but there's a little window of opportunity, so he has to make the decision. Do we go now or do we wait? He made the decision: We're going to take this window of opportunity. We're going to go now."

The statue shows him in a casual stance, she said, because in that moment, he is just another person, and he is talking with troops about fly fishing.

Atwater knew him as a knee-slapping grandfather, describing him as a military man who craved peace and a president who deplored politics.

She recalled his 1961 farewell speech, in which he outlined his vision for America and the world.

"We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations may have their great human needs satisfied," Eisenhower told the country. "That those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full, that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings, that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities, that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity, that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love."

Eisenhower, she said, found that binding force in Kansas. The statue would have been one of his most treasured honors, she said.

Colyer touted the president's efforts to integrate soldiers after the war, create NASA and launch the interstate highway system.

"Kansas is the true heart of America," Colyer said, "and if you think about this past century, there's probably one man that stands above all other Americans in forming this great nation and changing it and setting the stage for the modern world."

Abby McReynolds, a senior at Ellinwood High School, studied the general for a history project last year.

She praised his courage as the allied leader, "making such a huge decision in a time of what I can only describe as chaos and knowing that had to be the best for his people."

The Legislature this year approved the placement of the privately financed, $140,000 statue in the northwest corner of the Capitol grounds.