Portraitsof the Fallen Memorial is an organization founded by Sherry Moore to enlighten the public about the loss of our men and women in uniform. The purpose of the Portraits of the Fallen Memorial is to commemorate the sacrifice of those America Military service members, from California, who have died while serving our country during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. This is done by establishing a memorial that identifies each soldier with an artist rendering of their image. The goals of POTFM are very similar to so many great organizations but done in such a unique way. Their main goals are to illustrate in an effective way the implications of service to our country, to educate the public about our country’s value of service, peace and freedom and over time to erect a permanent memorial of all portraits transferred to tile, with a reflection area.
I met Sherry on Veteran’s Day at the USS Iowa, with many mutual friends and mutual respect of our fallen a partnership was made. When she asked for assistance with this project I was more than happy to help. Sherry was finally able to set up an art show with all 155 completed portraits at the Hillel Art Center at USC. OVerjoyed is the only word to describe how everyone felt as this day got closer.
Sunday morning I was both excited and nervous to take on the roll of VIP Family Coordinator for the Portraits of the Fallen Memorial Art Show. I have worked with families of our fallen for many years and knew (the best I can understand) that this would be a very emotional day for many of them. Seeing the face of your fallen loved one on a wall knowing that they are no longer with us is an emotional moment no matter how long it has been. I arrived early and assisted with the set up and walked around looking at each of the 155 faces staring back at me. Artists captured so many of these men and women to an amazing likeness and provided a story through each image.
As both artists and families arrived I realized that each was just as nervous and excited to meet the other. The day was spent showing families the art work of their fallen loved one and introducing them to the artist responsible. Seeing familiar faces and meeting new families is always touching. Towards the end of the day I finally let the magnitude of the art show come across me; looking at the faces of daddy’s that didn't come home, sons and daughters that had their lives ahead of them and parents weeping over the loss of their child. The art show did as promised because it showed the faces of our fallen and reminded people that these are not just names in the LA Times or on a wall but people with loved ones and lives to live; lives cut short because of their call to duty, their honor and their commitment to our country and the freedom’s it provides.
I have the honor of knowing the families of the two men below; neither family was able to attend the showing but I was very moved by the portraits done of each man.
Army Sgt. Blue Rowe Killed in Afghanistan 5/26/09. Husband to Cindy and father to Andrew
Army Sgt. David J. Almazan Killed in Iraq 8/27/2006. Husband to Salina
I met the family of Army Spec. Andrew J. (AJ)Castro when they arrived. His father, Hector, looked at his portrait with such pride and honor with tears in his eyes while his mother Carmen broke into tears, watching his family comfort this amazingly strong women was touching. Both of Carmen’s sons went Army, AJ following in his brothers footsteps. No matter how hard his father, Hector, tried to talk him out of it all AJ wanted was to serve our country and said he ended up learning so much about Patriotism from his conversations with his son. I enjoyed talking to Carmen, Hector and the rest of the family about AJ, his joker side, his love of both California and our country.
Thankful for the moments with each family, thankful to be invited into their world to get to know their loved one a little better and thankful for organizations like the Portraits of the Fallen Memorial showing the world how important each sacrifice is.