For many of our country’s veterans, giving back to the military community is an opportunity to continue serving. Vietnam veteran and Gold Star Father John Phelps exemplifies this mentality as he has donated his time and talents to our nation’s heroes to thank them for their dedication and bravery. To honor John for all he does, Hope For The Warriors was proud to present him with the 2022 Harry Bridgwood Lifetime Service Award!

The Harry Bridgwood Lifetime Service Award is presented to a Vietnam-era veteran who has committed his or her life to serving the next generation of the warrior community. John was presented with this award on August 28 at the 2022 Hope For The Warriors Summer Soirée, hosted by River Landing in Wallace, North Carolina, and presented by Siemens Government Technologies. The annual event unites HOPE staff, supporters, and many of our nation’s heroes, as they come together to honor those who have stepped up to help us meet the changing needs of the military community.  

“Harry Bridgewood was a close friend of mine, and I feel very honored to receive this award in Harry’s memory,” John said. 

In April 2004, John’s son, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, was killed in action at the age of 19 while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2009, the HBO® movie, Taking Chance was released, which told the story of the Marine escort who brought Chance back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. 

To honor all those who have taken the oath to protect and defend our freedoms, John became involved with HOPE’s Sports and Recreation program, and used his artistic skills to create the ‘No Man Left Behind Monument.’ These two life-size monuments were created to honor those wounded in the line of duty and those who never returned home. They are a representation of the spirit of brotherhood and dedication known by service members and their families. The monuments were donated to the Warrior HOPE and Care Centers aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in 2013 and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in 2014.

“John began his journey with Hope For The Warriors as our hunt manager,” said Robin Kelleher, Hope For The Warriors co-founder and CEO. “Today, John is an exceptional artist and friend that we spent several years with recreating the iconic photo, ‘Hell House’ from Fallujah, Iraq in 2005 as a bronze monument. His commitment to his and his son’s fellow service members will forever live on with his amazing artwork.” 

Art and the outdoors have always been a part of John’s lifestyle. After his time in the Navy, he served as a guide for elk and bighorn sheep hunters in the Fitzpatrick and Glacier Wilderness areas located in Fremont County, Wyoming. He also continues to create art that exemplifies the history of the Great American West, beginning with the explorations of its vast terrain, the fur trade era, mountain men, the epoch years of the cowboy, ranching, and rodeo. 

Thank you, John, for your continuous support of our military community! We were honored to present you with the Harry Bridgwood Lifetime Service Award and share your story of HOPE.