The American Fallen Soldiers Project, which is operated out of Carrollton, TX serves to honor, respect, and forever memorialize those who have sacrificed their lives protecting our freedom while serving in our Armed Forces.
The project began through the loss of a childhood friend, Captain Blake Russell, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. While attending the funeral and hearing the words shared by Blake’s Commanding Officer and others, the realization of the selfless commitment and supreme sacrifice given by our military set Phil on his path to find life’s true purpose, ultimately inspiring him to paint Blake’s portrait as an act of honor and patriotism.
What became evident through the painting and presentation process was the profound way the portrait affected the Russell family. It seemed to bring a sense of Blake’s presence home. After receiving the portrait, it was the phone call from Blake’s father that set in motion Phil’s commitment to paint additional fallen American heroes, with the hope that the same level of comfort could be given to more grieving families.
The project was founded in 2007 by Phil and Lisa Taylor as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides, at no cost to family members, an exquisitely framed original portrait of their fallen loved one that fully captures the serviceman’s appearance and personality. Upon completion of the portrait, Phil Taylor personally presents it to the family during a special memorial event, normally held in the family’s hometown. These public events are designed to honor the serviceman, honor the family, and help remind the community of the sacrifice made for freedom.
How much effort and time is committed to producing a piece and presenting it to a family?
The portraits are requested by the families through our website,www.AmericanFallenSoldiers.com. Each acrylic portrait takes approximately 80 to 120 hours to complete. It is then taken to be photographed and scanned to enable us to make multiple reproductions for other family members who did not receive the original. From there, the original and any prints for the families, are taken to framing and made ready for the presentation.
Each portrait is personally presented by Phil Taylor during a special ceremony that usually includes the Presentation of Colors, National Anthem, community and/or military speakers, the immediate and extended family, invited friends, comrades and others from their surrounding community.
How has this experience affected you?
After loosing Blake, going to his funeral, and seeing the family struggle with his untimely passing I knew it was a moment and opportunity for me to give back and hopefully make a difference in the lives of those who mourn and have given their most precious gift to our great nation. I have always been drawn to and find my greatest purpose being around people in the most difficult hour. There is something very genuine and honest about us all when we are staring into the realities of this life, which are tragedy, heartbreak, and death.
The single greatest impact painting and presenting America's finest to their families has made is feeling that my life has gained a measure of purpose and legacy that cannot be erased over time. Many heroes have been restored and reconciled to the families they left behind, and that experience, for me, is one that is hard to fully comprehend or explain, even after painting and presenting over 100 heroes over the past five years, but it is the driving force and motivation that empowers me to return to the easel each week, face the challenge of learning another hero’s story, and attempt to bring the essence of him home to the family that longs to see their loved one again. It is this life-changing impact the families experience that effects us most of all.