Two statues recall Fallujah’s ‘Hell House’
A sculpture commemorating one of the most gripping images of Operation Iraqi Freedom will be unveiled Friday aboard Camp Lejeune. Installed in front of the base’s Warrior Hope and Care Center, the statue depicts a 2004 photo snapped by freelance combat photographer Lucian Read showing wounded Marine 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal, his uniform soaked in blood, being carried out of Fallujah’s famous “Hell House” by two lance corporals.
Kasal had entered the building when he saw that Marines were trapped inside, fighting with insurgents in close quarters. He and a few other Marines combed through the structure to find and rescue their wounded brothers-in-arms, getting hit repeatedly as they went by enemy gunfire and shrapnel.
Kasal would receive the Navy Cross for bravery that day under fire and despite severe wounds to both legs.
Wyoming sculptor John Phelps, who was commissioned to the project by the national nonprofit organization Hope for the Warriors, said the project has special meaning for him.
A Vietnam veteran, Phelps lost his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps to combat in Iraq in 2004, the year the photo was taken. The journey of Lance Cpl. Phelps home from the battlefield after he was killed by enemy fire is portrayed in the 2009 HBO film Taking Chance, starring Kevin Bacon.
“It’s an honor for me to do it,” Phelps said. “It’s a presentation that I can make to recognize our service people and our wounded.”
Phelps said the project, which he molded in clay at half size, took close to a year of work to complete.
The final statue will be cast in bronze and will stand ten-by-thirteen feet on a pedestal.
The artist said he had great respect for Read, who he met in 2010 at a Hope for the Warriors even.
“His photograph is going to be one of the defining parts of the Iraq War,” Phelps said. “We have Armistice Day, with the sailor in Times Square giving the nurse a kiss, and the photo of raising the flag at Iwo Jima. This is one of those images.”
Phelps also serves Hope for the Warriors as a state ambassador and program coordinator.
“Hope For The Warriors is proud to partner with Gold Star father John Phelps to present a monument that symbolizes the strength and courage of our warriors,” organization president Robin Kelleher said in a release.
The Hope and Care Centers are facilities for rehabilitation and recovery of wounded troops, planned and conceived by Hope for the Warriors and funded by the Marine Corps. The Camp Pendleton Hope and Care Center opened last October, and the Lejeune center opened a few months later in December. An identical sculpture is expected to be unveiled in front of the Pendleton center later this month.
Funds for the Lejeune monument were raised by the North Carolina Credit Union League and Balfour Beatty Construction, according to a release. The organization also plans to sell limited-edition table-size bronze and resin miniatures of the sculpture for a small donation.