A Marine who survived a 1968 rocket attack in Vietnam and cradled his dying friend in his arms is paying it forward with art.
Artist and veteran Michael Reagan, 70, creates hand-drawn portraits for the families of soldiers lost while serving the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan – free of charge. His effort began in 2003 and he’s drawn more than 5,000 portraits for his Fallen Heroes Project since then.
“At the last second he looked at me and said, ‘Mike I just want to go home’ and he died,” recalled Reagan of that devastating moment in Vietnam to People.com. “I see his face every day.”
After Reagan returned home, he began drawing signed portraits of major celebrities that were then auctioned off at charity benefits – raising over $10 million for children’s and cancer research nonprofits over the years, according to People.com
Reagan usually tries to draw two portraits per day and spends about 10 hours each day on the job.
The artistic process is emotionally draining, so after each session Reagan walks several miles to help himself heal.
Gracious families have embraced Reagan’s work and praised his ability to help them heal.
“Mike is a gentle soul and using the gifts God gave him in a way that is touching our hearts," Julie Schrock, 59, who lost her son Max when he was hit by an improvised explosive device, told People.com.