“I’m handling these beautiful faces. Most of them were so young. It’s an ongoing project. I won’t stop till we’re out of Afghanistan.”
That wasn’t a statement protesting our current war. It was an homage to those who have served and have given their lives .
It came from artist Rebecca Fellows Sunday at a Veterans Day commemoration. She was describing the physical and emotional burden of creating her “Fallen Flags Project.”
It’s a series of six four-by-seven-foot flags made entirely out of enameled images of the faces of those American soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: 6,389, and growing.
Fellows, whose husband Doug is a retired 30-year Army veteran, is debuting her work in the atrium of City Hall. It was the centerpiece of the city’s formal Veterans Day event, which drew 50 participants and audience members Sunday morning.
Fellows said the impetus for the project came with the death of their friend Colonel Brian Allgood. He was the top U.S. medical officer in Iraq.
On Jan. 20, 2007, he had finished dedicating an American-built hospital near Baghdad, and stepped onto a Black Hawk helicopter with 11 other soldiers. Moments after the helicopter took off, it was rocketed. All aboard were killed.
Col (Ret.) Kenneth Gertz, who delivered the day’s address, pronounced Fellows’ work “outstanding.”
He notes that the Military Times publishes the pictures of slain soldiers on an annual basis every Memorial Day.
“I’ve seen everyone of these pictures. They look back at you and create a visual response to the meaning of their death,” Gertz said.
Fellows’ work has all the faces; it can’t end until the war does. She cited the small number of families whose loved ones are making the contribution.
“Most Americans are not involved. It’s easy to forget we’re still losing valuable young people,” she said.
Fellows called her work a “labor of love.” The concept came to her full blown after Allgood’s death, along with the impetus to complete it, however difficult.
“I woke up one morning and it was just there, and it was a matter of me executing it. Something greater than me,” she said.
New Haven U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who attended the ceremony with other officials, helped arrange the installation at New Haven’s City Hall.