The Story Behind the Sculpture
by Marcus Eriksen
Veterans Day seems pointless, just a bunch of old vets telling war stories. There is no Hallmark set of instructions to hint at a gift you might submit to your favorite war hero. It’s partly a recycled holiday due to another, Armistice Day, rendered obsolete by time. To this veteran it has a point. It’s years of pride and pain softened to a plea.
On Feb. 24, 1991 a truck filled with a dozen marines making a steady B-line for Kuwait City stopped the convoy when I yelled, “Hey look a body!” The paralyzed figure of an Iraqi soldier lay 50 feet from the incinerated jeep he was blown from. His knees were bent, eyes and mouth open,and his intestines poured out from under his shirt. We were both covered with specks of oil from the fires nearby, and soaked by the rains that made me miserable, yet washed his face clean. Before he died he must have waved his arms, like the way kids make snow angels. He made wings in the sand. My angel in the desert.
I never forgot him, or the grimaced faces of the living ones missing arms and legs, or the piles of dead men at the Highway of Death. So two years ago I began a welding a sculpture of that angel. I began with an old uniform, fiberglass resin, and plenty of plaster to make molds. I lined the molds with 70,000 ball bearings,like the projectiles we kill each other with, and welded them together. It weighs roughly 300 lbs, but comes in two pieces, much like I found him.
On Nov. 11th, Veterans Day 2007, I will haul my sculpture to the beach in Santa Monica, California, below the pier next to the Arlington West Memorial. I will lay him on the beach and draw wings around his arms. I will tell the story to whoever asks, because now it is just a story, fully mourned and forgiven. I will share a plea with everyone to end the war in Iraq and tend to the victims with our time and money. A donation jar will collect funds for the Mehadi Foundation to send U.S. veterans to counseling retreats, and to help organizations in Iraq provide all-terrain wheelchairs for Iraqis.
My plea is for you to think of something good to do for someone else, veteran or not, then do it.
The sculpture will be on display next to the Arlington West Memorial on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday, November 11th, Veterans Day 2007, from 9am until 5pm. Marcus Eriksen will be there to answer questions and offer copies of his book ‘My River Home’ to the public for a small donation. All proceeds will go to the Mehadi Foundation which provides assistance to veterans to attend counseling retreats and support organizations in Iraq providing relief aid to Iraqis.