Memorial restoration drive launched in memory of Marine
For Gerald Fuller, the thought of accomplishing something that his son had talked about before passing away in 2009 brought tears to his eyes Friday.
“He wanted it restored,” Fuller said of his son, Craig T. Fuller, while standing before the Iwo Jima Statue outside Eco Park in the early afternoon sunlight.
Craig T. Fuller, 33, was ambushed and killed on April 25 in a roadside attack in Afghanistan. He had served overseas in the U.S. Marine Corps before going back to the country to work as a private contractor. Fuller had worked as a security and construction contractor for five years before he was killed.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice, by his own choice,” Gerald Fuller said.
Fuller was a graduate of Cape Coral High School.
After his death, family and friends tried to figure out how best to honor Fuller’s memory. His stepmother, Roberta Fuller, said he was not a flowers type of guy. What the group’s focus snapped to was the Iwo Jima Statue.
“This was important to him,” Roberta Fuller said.
According to his family and friends, Fuller would honk at least three times every time that he would drive past the statue. He constantly talked about restoring the monument, and even purchased a memorial brick for himself after he left the Marines. The bricks are found at the base of the statue.
“The statue is where his heart was,” Joe Sabella, a family friend, said.
The statue, created by sculptor Felix de Weldon, is modeled after a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal that is called “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.” De Weldon created a life-size model, which is located at Arlington National Cemetery, and three smaller models, including the one in the Cape.
The other two are located in Parris Island, S.C., and Quantico, Va.
The Cape statue was built is 1955 for the Rose Garden. According to Commandant George Colom, of the Marine Corps League’s PFC Paul E. Ison Detachment No. 60, the statue is one-third the size of the life-size model. The life-size one stands 60 feet, but 32 feet for just the figurine soldiers.
The base that the Cape statue stands on is 9 feet wide, 18 feet long and almost 6 feet tall. The monument weighs 68,000 pounds, and the statue is constructed of concrete with a rebar frame and it is mostly hollow, Colom said. The piece was restored in 1980 and 1997, then moved to Eco Park.
According to Colom, the statue currently has more than 150 cracks and one of the figurine soldier’s legs is being held together with zipties. Details on the soldiers, like their fingers and hands, need to be reworked and the monument needs to be repainted. It could return to its original, green color; it is bronze.
“It’s important to the Marine Corps,” he said. “It’s important to the city.”
In an effort to restore the statue, Fuller’s family and friends partnered with the Cape Coral Community Foundation in 2009 and created a fund. To donate to the Craig T. Fuller Iwo Jima Statue Restoration, visit the website online at: capecoralcf.planyourlegacy.org. Donors can also check out: craigtfuller.com.
On Friday, Fuller’s family and friends gathered at the statue to inform the public about their mission and to announce three upcoming events designed to raise funds for the restoration project. According to one organizer, Joe Sabella, it will cost more than $85,000. The restoration fund currently contains about $7,000.
The following events are scheduled:
n May 2: Scavenger hunt at Harley-Davidson/Buell of Fort Myers, at 2160 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers. Register at 9 a.m. Cost is $10 per driver and $5 per passenger. The grand prize is a $250 Harley-Davidson gift certificate.
n May 15-16: Guitar Hero tournament from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at DT Designs and OutStanding Car Care, at 877 Cape Coral Parkway E. Registration fee is $25.
Finalists have chance to win gaming gift certificates of $300, $100 and $50.
n May 22: For the Love of Our Soldiers, the main fund-raiser, from 5-9 p.m. at Jaycee Park at 4125 S.E. 20th Place. The opening ceremony will honor all branches of the military. There will be an ending ceremony with a candlelight vigil and a video presentation as well. Admission to the event is free for all.
There will be a Guitar Hero tournament for ages 7-12, 13-17 and 18 and up. Finalists have chance to win gaming gift certificates of $300, $100 and $50. Other activities will include a dunk tank, rock wall climb, D-Box simulated car race, corn hole competition, blow-up slide, caricatures and face painting.
Freedom Bracelets can be purchased for $15 at the event or for $12 in advance. The bracelet allows participation in the on-site activities. Pay $5 more for a Bonus Bracelet for unlimited turns on the D-Box Auto Racing Simulator and one temporary freedom tattoo.
Also involved in the project are the Marine Corps League, Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation and Oasis Elementary Charter School, as well as others.
Gerald and Roberta Fuller said the community involvement means a lot.
“They’ve all really stepped up and they’re doing great things in his name,” Roberta Fuller said. “He’d be really proud of them.”
Gerald Fuller added that the restoration of the statue is important to more than just his son’s memory and those involved in the project.
“It’s not just for him, but for all the men and women in Cape Coral,” he said. “It’s for all of us. It’s for the whole community. It’s a natural treasure.”
For more information or to purchase Freedom Bracelets in advance, call Joe Sabella at 470-3661 or visit online at: craigtfuller.com.