After 13 years, artist still drawing faces of dead soldiers

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Michael Reagan, an artist in Edmonds, Washington, could probably be making bigger bucks as an artist. But making bigger bucks isn’t his passion right now. Drawing the images of every service member killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is.

He got a fair amount of publicity in the last decade before the wars got pushed aside.

But he’s still drawing.

His story, told by WBUR’s Kind World unit today, started with a young man dying in his arms in Vietnam, shortly after the boy — they were all just boys — said “I just want to go home.”

He’s seen his face every day for 46 years, he says.

After he was asked by a widow to draw a portrait of a soldier killed in the most recent wars, he told his wife he knew what he needed to do. He need to draw all of the dead service members.

He thought it would require about five years of work. It’s been 13, and he’s just finished number 4,634, WBUR says.

There was just one more he needed to draw. The one who bled to death in his arms in Vietnam. The one whose name he didn’t know.

This one:

Vincent Santaniello as drawn by Michael Reagan. Courtesy Ralph  Santaniello.

“It’s your uncle’s face I see every day in every drawing I do,” Reagan told Vincent Santaniello’s nephew, Ralph, whom Reagan connected with in 2013. “I think that moment that your uncle looked at me and died and said he just wanted to go home has been the driving force inside of me for years.”