In 1968, Michael Reagan was a Marine in Vietnam. In March of that year he was at a place up very close to the DMZ with his unit when they were attacked and hit with artillery and mortar fire. His best friend, Vincent Santanello, died in his arms that day, saying, “Mike, I just want to go home.”
Santanello would be the first drawing that Reagan did of a fallen hero. His friend’s portrait became the genesis of an idea, which would later become Reagan’s “Fallen Hero Project.” To this date he has drawn over 6,000 portraits for the families of those who have fallen in service to our nation.
He does each one of these portraits at no charge for the families. His work has been recognized at the highest levels. A couple of years ago he was awarded the “Citizens Before Self Honor Medal,” which is awarded by the Medal of Honor Foundation, an organization that is made up of Medal of Honor recipients. It is called the Civilian Medal of Honor and is the highest, most prestigious award bestowed on private citizens in our country.
Michael Reagan is a personal friend and a colleague at our local VFW Post 8870 in Edmonds, Washington. His generosity of spirit and his humility are known to all here. But I will let him speak for himself here in this video. You will get a clear sense of the man and of his commitment to this personal mission of remembering the fallen through his unique talent and gift in his own words.
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Reagan has drawn portraits of others over the years as well, from presidents to Popes to Hollywood A-listers and sports stars. As you will see, he gets the famous people he has drawn to sign the copies of their portraits and then donates the signed copies to charities to help in fundraising. His work has raised over $10 million for charities over the years.
First and foremost, Reagan is a Marine, a combat veteran. His art is the vehicle through which he expresses his love and respect for the fallen. This is what has motivated his Fallen Hero Project all of these years. It was born out of the loss in combat of his closest friend. He never forgets a single one of the men and women he has drawn over the years. He is deeply connected to their families too. You will get a sense of that as he tells some of the stories here in this video as well.
We here at the Veterans Site are deeply moved by the love and care that Michael Reagan gives to the nation’s Gold Star families through his art. We hope you too will remember those who have given their all, paid the supreme cost of service to this nation.
To Michael Reagan we say, OooRah, Marine! You are the epitome of the Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis.” We are Fratres Aeterni!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.