Air Force Capt Derek Argel
Army SP4 Leslie H. Sabo, Jr.
Army CPT Daniel W. Eggers
Navy CPO (SEAL) Christopher S. Kyle
Army CW3 Wesley Charles Fortenberry
Marine LCpl Nazario Serrano
Air Force Capt James M. Steel
These 7 fallen US soldiers, along with 213 more, have been commemorated by artist, Phil Taylor, through The American Fallen Soldiers Project. With 70+ hours into each painting, Phil creates a beautiful portrait of an American solider, a solider that has served our country and unfortunately paid the highest price. This foundation, created by Phil and his wife Lisa, “was formed to help provide comfort and healing to the grieving families of our fallen military. [The] 501c3 non-profit organization makes available, at no cost to the family, an original portrait of their fallen loved one that fully captures their appearance and personality.”
Flash back 6 months:
It was December 2015, and our daughter had just been notified that she was awarded 1st place in the Constituting America art contest in which she had submitted a piece of art work highlighting the importance of the Constitution. Little did we know, Phil Taylor, co-founder of The American Fallen Soldiers Project, was one of the judges for this contest.
When Marin received her award, she was given a DVD explaining further the work and contribution Phil has made to our fallen soldiers and their families through his art work. It then occurred to me that because of our family’s love for our service men and women, our love for America and our love of art, we should pay a visit to Mr. Taylor. By April, we had scheduled our visit to Dallas, TX.
On June 3rd, days after Memorial Day, we pulled into Phil’s new gallery in Dallas. After four hours in the car, we pealed ourselves from the pleather seats and quickly straight-ened our hair. I reminded the kids of their manners and the kind of gallery we were visiting. We opened the door into a beautiful gallery where we immediately saw an American flag. However, the red stripes you’d normally see on our flag were actually comprised of photographs of fallen soldiers that Phil has commemorated through his work. What a fitting way to immediately honor those respectable men and women no longer with us.
We were greeted by Lisa, Phil’s wife, and Amy, a dedicated worker of the foundation. Stepping in further to the gallery, we saw numerous large portraits, each hung in their own space, alone. Each a fallen soldier, having paid the ultimate price for freedom. Each being granted their space to be remembered and honored.
I had that same feeling when I saw the Vietnam Memorial for the first time, or when we strolled through the Arlington Cemetery, or when we sat by the shore of the Delaware River and remembered Washington’s fateful crossing on that bitterly cold Christmas Eve night. A moment of sadness, of grief, longing to express your gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice.
We turned and saw Phil walk out of his studio office wearing shorts, shirt untucked, flip-flops and an array of tattoos on his forearms. I’m sure not the picture my kids were expecting. Though they were a bit shy at the beginning, because of Phil’s authentic, open-heart, the kids each felt a kinship towards him and this incredible foundation, bringing healing and peace to so many families. Phil, Lisa, and their amazing team, honor – every day of the year – these true American heroes.
For over ten years, Phil has painted over 200 portraits. Once a portrait is complete, the Foundation then holds a ceremony for the family and presents the inspired portrait Phil has painstakingly created. The ceremony is brewing with honor, dignity and praise for this soldier’s gift of service. The families find great healing and peace with Phil’s inspired rendition of their loved one.
In one particular case, a mother, who had lost her son in war, became suicidal. Once Phil had completed this son’s portrait, he and his team flew into town to hold the ceremony. As the ceremony was to start, Phil asked where the mother of the son was so they could begin. He was told she was in the bathroom, drunk. Knowing they were going to honor her son properly that day, he emphatically walked into the women’s bathroom, brought out the mother and had her sit right in front of the painting. When the painting was unveiled, Phil was right next to this mother’s side, honoring, grieving, and finding peace with this precious mother. Now, with that portrait in her home, this mother has felt a sense of peace which has helped her face each new day. And to this day, she credits Phil and this painting with saving her life.
As Phil walked us through the gallery, he invited us into his studio which is graced with the largest American flag I’ve ever seen! He sat with our kids and looked at their art. He listened to their thoughts and how they created their works. He gave them suggestions to improve their art, and exemplified, through his work and sharing, how an inspired artist fulfills his life’s mission. His office was adorned with uniforms, metals, badges, empty magazines, awards, and more…all from the families of the fallen soldiers he has honored through his talents. He’d begin telling us a story of how he came to have a certain badge or soldier’s uniform, but would have to stop numerous times as he could not continue. He lives Memorial Day every day of the year.
Phil made an impression on our family that day. Not only is Phil the most talented artist we’ve ever had the opportunity to meet, but he is also a true patriot that lives to provide healing for those who’ve been left behind by their fallen loved ones. He gave us more time than we should have taken from him and he gave Marin and Colton invaluable inspiration and suggestions on their art. It was a day we will cherish for a long time.
His ministry is through his artwork, and it continues to gain momentum through the inspiring non-profit, The American Fallen Soldiers Project. We were honored and humbled to have had this opportunity and highly encourage you to visit the gallery in Dallas.
To learn more, visit the gallery or donate, please go to: http://americanfallensoldiers.com/
For a video of Phil’s work, please see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cig_kGRFJ2Y