When a soldier doesn’t return home, sometimes all their families have left are memories and photographs. But one artist has been giving them new life.
Artist and Vietnam veteran Michael Reagan creates hand-drawn portraits for the families of all service members lost in Iraq and Afghanistan -- free of charge. It began with a single request in 2003, and since that time he has drawn more than 4,500 portraits through his nonprofit Fallen Heroes Project.
The 70-year-old tries to draw two portraits a day, and will spend over 10 hours on the job. He told People.com, “I sit here for all those hours for nothing other than the fact that this human being died for me, and he didn’t know me.” He puts a lot of emotion into each drawing, and walks five and a half miles afterwards to heal.
“I try to walk myself out of a broken heart,” he explained, “so the next day I can draw another one and break my heart all over again.”
Sometimes it is a reproduction of a family’s favorite photo. Or in the case of fallen hero Michael Carey, a portrait with the daughter he never had the chance to meet.
“There is a message this soldier is trying to send home to his family, and for some reason, I am the person who will send it home,” he added.
It allows their families to not just look at their face, but to look into it -- and have a little more of them come back home.