Texas artist bringing the fallen to life
January 11, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Jan. 12, 2011 -- Duty, honor and country-three words that instill pride into any Soldier and their family. Yet, when a Soldier is killed or missing in action these words can bring forth inspiration.
This desire was felt by Phil and Lisa Taylor, founders of the American Fallen Soldier Project, to help bring closure to the families and friends of fallen soldiers.
Phil presented a portrait of Cpl. Adam Chitjian, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, killed in action in Balad, Iraq, Oct. 25, 2007, to his wife Shirley Chitjian, Jan. 7, at the 58th Street Chapel.
"Our mission is to honor, respect and forever memorialize those who have sacrificed their lives protecting our freedom while serving in our armed forces," said Phil. "Our goal, and the heart of The American Fallen Soldiers Project, is to comfort and serve the Gold Star families unconditionally and impartially to the best of our ability through our portraits."
Shirley had submitted the portrait request in 2008 after finding Phil on the internet.
"I believe I was on the TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) website when I ran across Phil and I then 'googled' him to find out more information," Shirley said.
She decided to request a portrait because of the life-likeness of them.
"It was almost like the ghost was in the room with you," she said.
Phil contacted Shirley earlier this year to gather more information on Adam to better understand him as a person before painting the portrait.
"I took the time to learn who Adam was, where he's from, and how he died," Phil said. "I then began working on Adam's portrait and it took me about 90 hours to complete."
The portrait presentation ceremony consisted of an audience of Soldiers from Adam's battalion as well as members from Adam's family.
"I would remember running into Adam during deployment and he usually looked down and tired and I would always remind him that we're almost home," said Spc. Isaiah Parramore, a rifleman with 3-8 Cav., 1st Cav. Div. "Except sometimes things turn out a little differently than planned."
Halfway through the ceremony Phil invited Shirley to the stage to unveil the portrait. She leaned in and gave it a kiss and said "welcome home," while holding back tears.
"Receiving this portrait is a milestone and a new beginning," she said. "When you're a widow of a fallen Soldier, at some point in your life you have to figure out how you take that person with you and still go forward, and for me, today represented that point."
Phil reiterated how moving it is for him and how passionate he is about painting each and every portrait.
"The experience of painting a portrait of someone taken too soon and then having the opportunity to give this gift to a grieving family is very profound to me," he said. "And hopefully it brings comfort and peace to Shirley and her family."