Friday, September 25, 2009
Tragedy and art often combine to produce masterpieces.
The Gold Star Families have been blessed with the support of many. But two groups stand out for what they do and how they do it.
The American Fallen Soldiers Project is a work of love by Phil Taylor and his wife Lisa.
Phil has used his art to help his family heal, and to help those hurting.
Shortly after taking Phil Taylor’s youngest daughter to the prom and just a few days before graduating from high school, Ben Dossett was killed in a motorcycle accident in his hometown of Frisco, Texas.
Out of a desire to help his daughter through the tragedy and to honor Ben and his family, Phil painted tirelessly through the night and the following day to have a portrait of Ben ready to present to the Dossett family before the funeral.
The experience of painting a portrait of someone taken too soon and then having the opportunity to give this gift to a grieving family was very profound. At the moment he received the hug of gratitude from Ben’s father, Phil knew his life had changed.
He then contacted a long time friend whose brother, Capt. Blake Russell, had been killed in Iraq on July 22, 2006.
When attending Blake's funeral, Phil observed an incredible outpouring of American patriotism. The experience affected him deeply. But, at the time he did not know how he could help.
After the experience of painting Ben, Phil decided to try to restore Blake on canvas for his family. The reaction from the Russell family upon receiving their portrait was confirmation that the paintings were a way to bring comfort and peace.
From that moment on, Phil and Lisa knew he had to continue sharing this gift with as many families as possible.
Phil and Lisa have taken on this task of "healers" because they are called to it.
They have no choice. They also have dramatically changed their lives. They work full time on the project and have had a significant reduction in income because of the time they are putting into supporting grieving families.
The painting of our smiling Pete has been such a gift to our family. It's all there in the eyes. Thank you Phil and Lisa for caring so much.
Another group of amazing artists work together on what they call Project Compassion.
The work was started by Kaziah Hancock, an artist who lives on a Montana ranch with an appreciation for the U.S. military.
Kaziah's father was an honorably discharged and disabled Army veteran. He passed away one week before she was born.
Her mother raised five children with the Army pension check. She knows about the sacrifice of military families.
She began painting fallen soldiers in March of 2003 as a simple way of saying thanks and offering a hug from afar to grieving families.
The painting of Pete with Missy has touched our family deeply. It reminds us of a sweeter time and a never ending love.
Thank you Kaziah and Lane Brady and all of your wonderful artists.
Kaziah expresses her feelings for the fallen so eloquently.
"They have my respect, my heart, so of course I continue to give them my hands."
Let us never forget to support the healers.
They too can become overwhelmed by the task, the grief, the loss.
Phil and Kaziah, thank you. Take care of yourselves. You are loved.