Video: Sketching America's 'fallen heroes'

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/22/2006 8:04:20 PM ET 2006-09-23T00:04:20

Angel Collins says the first time she saw the picture of her son Jonathan, killed two years ago in Iraq, it took her breath away.

"These eyes," says Angel as she looks at the drawing. "Those are the eyes that I've seen since the day he was born. I opened up the wrapping, and there was my son looking back at me."

The drawing was a gift from artist Michael Reagan of Edmonds.

In the solitude of the predawn hours, he sketches the faces of Americans who have died in the war, giving away the drawings to the families of the fallen.

"It's very important to the families," he says. "What I'm trying to do with these people and these drawings is let these people know I care."

Reagan has completed 430 sketches and wants to draw every one of the almost 3,000 Americans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I've dedicated the rest of my life to this project," he says.

Why is he so driven? The father of Army Pfc. Sam Huff, killed last year, has a theory.

"I think he just feels a calling," says Robert Huff. "He was a Vietnam veteran in the ’60s, a combat veteran, and so he knows what it's like to lose friends and to lose family."

And in helping the families of those killed in Iraq deal with their grief, he is healing his own wounds. As he tells the families of the soldiers he sketches: "You're allowing me to help with your pain and what you're returning me are prayers and love. I've never felt so much love or prayers for me in my whole life."

The father of Benny Colgan, killed by a roadside bomb, says Reagan's sketch has brought his son home.

"His spirit is with us," says Joe Colgan. "I believe that, and so it's real easy for me to look at the picture and talk to him.

"The essence of that soldier or the spirit of that soldier is sitting with me while I do that drawing," says Reagan.

And he says it is that spirit that inspires his labors of love.

"It's amazing to draw people who love their country so much that they've died for it."

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