The monument “No Man Left Behind” was unveiled in front of the Warrior Hope and Care Center aboard Camp Lejeune on Friday, March 8, 2013. In attendance were two of the men depicted in the sculpture as well as the artist. In addition, many active duty military attended and veterans in the area attended.
The two men on the left and the right are Chris Marquez and Dane Shaffer. They stand in front of the sculpture that depicts them as they fought in Fallujah, Iraq on November 13, 2004. They stand in front of the monument that demonstrates to the world that they would not leave a fellow Marine behind. The man that stands between them is a Vietnam veteran and the artist that created the sculpture. Most importantly however, he is the father of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, USMC KIA.
On March 8, the weather was beautiful…in photographs. It was sunny and cool but there were also gusts of high winds. So before the unveiling, most of the honored guests waited inside the lobby of the Warrior Hope and Care Center. Standing in the lobby was actually perfect–it gave a glimpse of the state-of-the-art facility that opened in December 2012. As visitors enter, they are greeted with this image:
Chris and Dane stood together around the corner from most of the crowd, surrounded by their families. When I approached, I introduced myself and thanked them for coming to the unveiling. It did not take long for their question to come out,
“Is Sergeant Major Kasal coming?”
Unfortunately, Kasal could not attend due to commitments in his current command. But I assured both men that he had written a beautiful letter to be read during the ceremony.
I was not surprised by the question and the need to see the man that they had carried out of battle and to safety. Kasal had been their 1st Sergeant. The fact that an iconic photo of the three of them was taken was not nearly as important to these men and it was to all of us. They simply wanted to see the man they had served with more than eight years ago.
And they were not alone.
Before I met them, I spoke to another veteran. A Marine that had served with all three men. His first question had been the same. Are the men here?
Of course, this comes as no surprise to those that know service members and veterans. Our service members serve our country and protect our freedoms. But they sacrifice for the men and women they serve with.
Near the end of the ceremony, this same veteran approached John Phelps, the artist and Gold Star Father. His son, Chance Phelps, was killed in action on April 9, 2004 in Ramadi. The veteran shared that he had met Chance only briefly. However brief, the two men needed to share their memories of a Marine, a man, and a son.
With service members, a monument does not need to be created to remember those who have served, sacrificed and paid the ultimate price. No man is ever forgotten.