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Army of ‘fallen heroes’ emerges in thousands of intimate portraits by veteran artist

For 15 years his portraits have helped Gold Star families through their grief

Vietnam veteran Michael Reagan has dedicated the last 15 years of his life helping Gold Star families through their grief, drawing portraits of fallen service members for the families.
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Vietnam veteran Michael Reagan has dedicated the last 15 years of his life helping Gold Star families through their grief, drawing portraits of fallen service members for the families.

Artist Michael Reagan said he knew there was more work to do after drawing a portrait for the wife of a fallen Marine 15 years ago.

The widow, from Boise, Idaho, saw Reagan on national television and contacted him regarding a possible drawing of her late husband, Reagan said in a video released Wednesday by Defense.gov.

After Reagan completed a portrait of the Marine at no cost, he said the woman called to tell him it brought her a sense of peace she had not had in the year since his death.

“I got off the phone, told my wife what happened,” Reagan says in the video. “I said now we need to do them all.”

There’s one big difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, though the history of each is rooted in the history of our country’s wars.

That was 15 years ago. Reagan has since drawn more than 5,700 portraits of fallen soldiers for Gold Star families, free of charge, he said.

Reagan, a Marine Vietnam combat veteran, now has a website for his Fallen Heroes Project. It memorializes fallen soldiers through Reagan’s artwork, with a gallery linking to each drawing and bio.

Though the site’s mission “is to honor the American Fallen Heroes for their ultimate sacrifice during the war against terrorism,” it also has galleries for British, Canadian and Polish soldiers.

Reagan has been doing portraits for about three decades.

“I start with their eyes,” he says in the video. “The minute I finish (their) eyes, they’re looking right at me and I’m looking right at (them) for the next seven hours, I draw (their) picture.”

Reagan believes a soldier’s spirit is with him when he works on their portrait, and “helps him do the work, helps him get it right,” according to his bio page.

Families requesting a portrait are asked to submit a quality photo and one page biography on their loved one.

World War 1 ended Nov. 11, 1918 on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It is commemorated as Veterans Day or Remembrance Day in the US and Europe and may people wear poppies to honor those who died.

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