CLEVELAND (WJW) – The dream of a Vietnamese-American woman 50 years in the making is coming to fruition at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.

A 12-foot tall, solid-marble statue of The Mother of Vietnam was unveiled publicly for the first time on Friday.

Giahoa Ryan is the driving force behind the statue being added to the Vietnamese Cultural Garden.

She was born and raised in Vietnam as one of 12 children, and vividly remembers the devastation caused by the Vietnam War. She said the statue is a tribute to everyone impacted.

“I’ve been waiting for her to greet all the Vietnam Vets, all the people that give their life for my family, my country and everything,” she said tearfully. “They come back here and suffer with their ailments and all that, all that. I hope they see her, and she heals them.”

It took the better part of six years to take this statue from ideation and creation to bringing it here to the cultural gardens in Cleveland — but not without a few setbacks, including sustaining damage while being shipped internationally.

“We had to have all the carving, which took almost a year from pure marble, from Marble Mountain,” retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph Meissner said. “Then to get her here, she had to come by the high seas. That was a 3-month voyage to get here.”

Ryan and Meissner work together at the Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese to build schools in Vietnam.

Ryan said the statue represents all women of the world and is meant to be displayed as a symbol of peace and serenity.

After four hours of installation, the statue was safely placed in the Vietnamese Cultural Garden. Ryan is overwhelmed to see this dream realized.

“It’s just so exciting and wonderful,” she said. “I’m glad I’m able to do that. And I hope she’s going to stay there for many centuries to come.”

Ryan plans to have a formal welcome celebration event in the future, perhaps in the spring when the weather warms up.

Ryan said she still hasn’t received the final bill for the construction of the statue but estimates it could cost up to $1 million.

She is fundraising to pay for that and other improvements to the garden. If you’re interested in helping, you can send a donation to the Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese at 2234 West Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44102 or on the foundation’s website.