Our nation is blessed with so many brave citizens who put their own lives at risk in order to protect others and it breaks our hearts when in this endeavor another precious life is lost. Many ask themselves, "What can be done to bring some comfort to the grieving families?" Fortunately, our nation is also blessed with many people who are willing to put their special talents and abilities to work in order to help those who are grieving or enduring any kind of hardship.

I happen to be a painter of portraits. The realization came to me one day that I could present something very special to the families of fallen heroes - a lifelike painting, custom framed and delivered to their door at absolutely no cost to them. At that point Fallen Hero Portraits was born!

In a local newspaper, I read an article about a young marine from Rochester, MN who lost his life in Afghanistan. I contacted his parents, Dave and Kay Swenson. Their son, Lance Cpl. Curtis Swenson became my first Fallen Hero Painting.

During an early conversations with Kay, I relayed to her one reason why I feel such empathy for parents who lose a child. Several years ago my husband and I lost our wonderful daughter, Mary, to a sudden illness. When she died at the age of thirty-two, she left a husband, two small children, and all of us. And even though my husband and I cannot know exactly the depth of someone else's pain, especially when the circumstances are so different, we know the hurt of losing a child. When talking to other parents in this "club", one we'd all prefer not to be in, we always agree that it is just so out of order and that no words can ever describe the loss.

I do these portraits in our daughter's memory. Mary dearly loved God, family and country. I know she would be so pleased that we are honoring the courageous men and women of our nation who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Many have voiced concerns that my painting portraits of fallen heroes might be too sad for me. I appreciate these caring thoughts, however I do find the process of painting the portraits uplifting and healing. Before starting Curtis's portrait, I held his picture in my hands and said a prayer, asking God to bless his soul, watch over his family, and guide me through the steps of painting his portrait. I do this with every portrait... and believe me, a true likeness doesn't always come easy... so I am forever looking up!

During that first honor portrait I watched Curtis come alive on the canvas. Watching a fallen hero come to life on the canvas is a special moment with each portrait. It usually happens when I put the sparkle in their eyes. It's our "hello" moment, and then we spend a bit more time together as I put the final touches on the painting. Sometimes it's hard to say goodbye to the ones I've just painted, but I know they are going to their families, and it is my honor to have had a part in bringing them home.