3,600 and counting: Vietnam vet's portraits pay tribute to fallen soldiers

by: Angel Canales and Arthur Niemynski Updated:

Artist Michael Reagan, Founder of the Fallen Heroes Project in his studio in Everett, Wash. (Scott Eklund, Courtesy Michael Reagan/Fallen Heroes Project)

When Michael Reagan came back from the Vietnam War he said there was a piece of him missing. “I joined because there was a war going on, and I felt it was my duty to do that,” said Reagan.

Reagan was sent to Con Thien, Vietnam, in the summer of 1967, and he served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a corporal in the 3rd battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from 1966 to 1969. “I wondered what am I doing here. There’s some pretty scary stuff happening,” said Reagan.

His return home wasn’t easy, he said.  ”I remember on April 10 1968, when I landed at the airport. I was spit on and called names. It was not very comfortable.” For the next five years, he said,  it was very tough for him to adjust to civilian life. “I didn’t break any laws but drank a lot, and I was pretty screwed up.”

Reagan’s interest in drawing started while he was in the service. “In Vietnam at the Distribution Management Center, you were either fighting or not doing anything, and rather than sit around and not do anything, I would draw pictures of the Marines I was with or their families, and, sadly, sometimes the only thing that would come home from fallen Marines were the drawings I did,” said Reagan.

That desire to become an artist drove him to the Burnley School for Professional Art in Seattle when he was 27 years old. “I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be, but the harder it got, the harder I worked, and I knew this was what I wanted to be,” said Reagan.

Read more of this story from ABC News here.

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