In November 2004, embedded photographer Lucian Read captured one of the most memorable battlefield images of the U.S. war in Iraq.
Marine 1st-Sgt. Brad Kasal, bloodied but unbowed, was being helped from house-to-house fighting in Fallouja by lance corporals Chris Marquez and Dane Shaffer. In one hand, Kasal gripped his 9-millimeter Beretta, in the other, his K-bar knife.
Now the image has been turned into a bronze sculpture by Wyoming artist John Phelps. Titled "No Man Left Behind," the sculpture was unveiled last week outside the Wounded Warrior West site at Camp Pendleton.
To the Marines, Read’s picture and Phelps’ artwork are a testament to the indomitable fighting spirit of the Marine Corps. A similar sculpture by Phelps is now at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Phelps’ son, Marine Pvt. Chance Phelps, was killed in combat in April 2004 in Ramadi, Iraq. An HBO movie in 2009, “Taking Chance,” starring Kevin Bacon, told the story of the return of Chance Phelps’ body to his hometown for burial.
At a brief but emotional unveiling ceremony last week, John Phelps, 65, who served in Vietnam as a Marine, said he was drawn to the Read picture by the fact that Kasal, although wounded and bleeding, was still holding a pistol and a knife, ready to continue the fight.
“That’s a powerful statement,” Phelps said. “That’s a Marine.”
Kasal received the Navy Cross for bravery in the close-in fighting at what has been dubbed Hell House. He is now a sergeant-major.
The sculpture project was supported by Hope for the Warriors, a nationwide nonprofit that assists Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
Coming to Camp Pendleton made him think of his son, Phelps said.
When asked what his son would think of the sculpture, Phelps, his robust voice suddenly quiet, said, “I know he’d be proud.”