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Authors & Artists Supporting Our Troops Archive

DynCorp Employee Honored for Heroic Efforts in Afghanistan

Posted by John Adams on December 29, 2010

DynCorp International police trainer James Boyd will be recognized in the “100 Faces of War Experience” portrait in honor of his actions during an insurgent attack on his outpost in Afghanistan earlier this year.

While embedded with the U.S. military, Boyd’s outpost came under fire from a group of insurgents. Boyd repeatedly braved bullets and bombs, scrambling back-and-forth across the compound  to get medical bags and stretchers, lend aid and supported the team working to keep the enemy from breaching the compound wall.

According to the firm, “Boyd has supported efforts to train the Afghan border police under DI’s contract with the Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) since Nov. 2009.”

“The civilian police mentors and trainers that we have working in Afghanistan and around the world exhibit quiet acts of heroism every day,” said Don Ryder, DI vice president of the company’s training, mentoring and security programs. “James’ dedication to the mission and to helping others is a great example of the selfless contributions being made by those deployed overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is fitting that he will be honored in this exhibit.”

“A lot of people have asked about my efforts that day,” Boyd said. “I’m a trained police officer and when something like this happens, while most people react by running away from danger, we are trained to run toward it and see how we can help. That is what I did.” Read the remainder of this entry »

A tribute to our Fallen Heroes – Coming Home

Posted February 20, 2010 By Ms Sparky

This amazing video was done by a small production compnay in the UK called Myrtle Productions. The song is entitle Coming Home and is sung by The Soldiers.  The amazing art is done by Michael G Reagan founder of the Fallen Heroes Project. I have blogged many times about Micheal’s work. For those who are not familiar, Michael is a world renowned portrait artist who now draws almost exclusively portraits of Fallen Heroes who have died in the fight against terrorism. He presents these portraits as a gift to the families free of charge. He’s been getting a lot of recent media coverage in the United Kingdom because not all the Fallen Heroes are from the US. I urge you to follow the link to the Fallen Heroes Project site and donate generously. Read the remainder of this entry »

Fallen Heroes Project Portrait Poster #4 of 7. Each poster is unique and all seven posters will be on dsplay at Arlington National Cemetary on Memorial Day.

After the last few posts, I think it’s time I throw a little love your way.

I’ve written about world renowned portrait artist Michael G. Reagan and the Fallen Heroes Project several times. Micheal is an artist from Washington State who has committed himself to hand drawing the portrait of every soldier who has died in this fight against terrorism. This not only includes American soldiers, but those soldiers of our allies as well.

And every portrait, over 2000 now, requested by the Fallen Heroes family is done free of charge. It’s a gift from Michael to them. You can help defer these costs at the Fallen Heroes Project site.

Arlington National Cemetery is displaying all seven of posters in Section 60. See below.

Here is is a recent article from the BBC News (if you have problems viewing this audio slide show on MsSparky.com click HERE)

Audio slideshow: Portraits of the fallen

Distinctive portraits of British, US and Canadian service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – created by artist Michael Reagan – have gone on display at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC.

A Vietnam War veteran himself, he has produced more than 2,000 drawings for the soldiers’ families free of charge. He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme he wants to document all of the Allied troops killed in action.

Fallen Heroes Project posters on display at Arlington National Cemetery

Fallen Heroes Project posters on display at Arlington National Cemetery

Micheal is going to be in my neck of the woods soon. I will have the distinct pleasure of meeting him in person and am looking forward to hearing him speak.

Ms Sparky

Seeking answers to why they died

Trailer for the upcoming Midtown Films documentary “LaVena Johnson — The Silent Truth”, questioning whether there is a cover up of the rape and murder of women soldiers. (Warning: Video contains graphic images of the crime scene)

Stories of women killed in combat need to be told, Colonie vet says
By DENNIS YUSKO, Staff writer
TimesUnion.com – Saturday, December 12, 2009

COLONIE, NY — The military’s investigation into how Staff Sgt. Amy Tirador died in Iraq has hit home for someone who never knew her: Noonie Fortin, an Army veteran who has spent decades documenting women at war and the sometimes murky circumstances surrounding their deaths.
Fortin has chronicled the stories of American women who have died in combat zones since the Civil War from her home just miles from where Tirador grew up. Fortin’s proud, tragic profiles are now published on a Web site bearing her name, and provide information gathered from military sources, media reports and, sometimes, family members. Pictures of the fallen accompany most of the modern day snippets, which also tell how, where and when the servicewomen were killed.

An author of 10 books and a public speaker, Fortin comes at the project from a patriotic point of view. She says she’s archiving the casualties for history. But the retired first sergeant says she knows the anguish and stress of war, and questions military reports she considers unbelievable or incomplete. And there’s been more than a few of those from Iraq, Fortin said in her Colonie home.

“I do it because these women’s stories need to be out there,” said Fortin, author of “Women at Risk: We Also Served,” which tells the stories of more than 60 military women.

On her web site, Fortin names 118 women, ages 18 to 54, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 28 lost supporting military operations in Afghanistan. The military has classified at least 45 of the female deaths in Iraq as noncombat incidents, she notes. Of those, 13, including Tirador, died from gunshot wounds, while many of the others were involved in vehicle accidents or had health problems.

The latest entry in Fortin’s gallery is Tirador, an Army interrogator who spoke Arabic and worked in military intelligence. Tirador, 29, grew up in Colonie and was shot in the back of the head while walking to an 8 p.m. work shift on the U.S. military base Camp Caldwell in eastern Iraq, her mother has said. More than five weeks after her death, the military has released few details about it, only that it is investigating whether Tirador was killed, committed suicide or died in an accident.

Ann Wright, a vocal advocate for military women from Arkansas who retired as an Army colonel in protest of the Iraq war in 2003, called Fortin’s Web site “the only one that has information on every woman, military or civilian, killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Women are increasingly serving amid warfare, weapons and combat stress, Wright and Fortin say. In those environments, relationships can sometimes end in rape, violence or even murder, they say.

More than 2,900 sexual assaults were reported in the military in 2008, 8 percent more than 2007, according to a March report by the U.S. Defense Department. About 63 percent of those involved rape or aggravated assault, the report states. It says 251 of the incidents occurred in combat areas, with 141 in Iraq and 22 in Afghanistan.

The deaths of several women in Iraq and at least one in Afghanistan are suspicious, Fortin said.

She cites the 2005 case of Army Pvt. LaVena L. Johnson as the most striking. The 19-year-old Missouri woman died in Balad after being raped, beaten, shot and set on fire, said her father, who has pictures and documents from the incident. The Army has ruled Johnson’s death a suicide from a self-inflicted rifle shot. The case is profiled in the forthcoming documentary, “LaVena Johnson — The Silent Truth,” due for release in 2010. It examines whether there is an army coverup of the rape and murder of women soldiers.

“Is this another Pat Tillman-style cover-up?” Fortin wrote on her Web site about the death of Johnson.

She also tells the story of how the military had blamed the 2007 death of Spc. Kamisha J. Block on friendly fire, only to later admit that her ex-boyfriend shot the 20-year-old five times in Baghdad before killing himself. “The Army and Pentagon lied to the family and press,” Fortin said.

Here are other cases about which she questions the official military accounts:

Army Pvt. Tina Priest, who had claimed she was raped in Iraq, died from a non-combat gunshot wound to the chest in Taji in 2006.

Pvt. Hannah L. Gunterman McKinney, who died after reportedly falling out of a vehicle in Taji.

Maj. Gloria D. Davis and Sgt. Denise A. Lannaman, who the Army says died of noncombat gunshot wounds, but according to reports may have been involved in shady deals with private military contractors.

Army Spc. Ciara Durkin, who had told her parents to press for answers if anything happened to her while she was deployed in Afghanistan, Fortin says. In September 2007, someone shot her once in the head near a church at Bagram Airfield. The military reportedly has said she committed suicide. Family members believe she was killed.

Fortin also details the shooting deaths of three women supporting the Iraq war from Bahrain, including Navy Master-at-Arms Anamarie Sannicolas Camacho, 20, and Genesia Mattril Gresham, 19, who were killed by a male sailor in 2007 in what is described as a jilted boyfriend’s shooting spree.

Tirador is not the only female translator to die overseas. Spc. Alyssa Renee Peterson, 27, killed herself in Iraq in 2003 after saying that she didn’t like the way interrogations were done, Fortin says.

Tirador is the first woman from the Capital Region to die in a war zone since a nurse from Albany named Marilyn Lourdes Allan was shot to death in 1967 by a decorated Army captain in Vietnam, Fortin said. Allan is featured in Fortin’s book “Women at Risk.” She was working with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and had dated her killer, who committed suicide after shooting her three times, according to a Times Union report.

Fortin grew up in Lansingburgh and served in the Army Reserve from 1975 to 1997. Military investigations like the one underway in the Tirador case can take four to six months, she said.

“I feel that the military could do more,” Fortin said, referring the military’s handling of the investigations of noncombat deaths . “Will they? Not unless they get pushed.” (click HERE for original article)

Noonie Fortin’s profiles of U.S. women who have died in combat zones.

“I could actually hear him laugh”

Posted November 18, 2009 By Ms Sparky

Ryan Maseth FHPDear Michael,

When I unwrapped the drawing of Ryan and laid eyes on him, I instantly knew that you had captured him and brought him to life. I looked into his eyes and I felt him looking back at me.  When I saw his slight smile, I could actually hear him laugh, as if he was getting ready to say something.

My heart aches for Ryan and how he died.  In the midst of searching for answers, you have brought me peace.  I’ve had to learn to slow down and appreciate the gifts that God places in front of me.  The drawing you created of Ryan is a very special gift that I will cherish forever.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away”.  This is my favorite quote by Joy J. Golliver.

You are, without a doubt, a person that has “found your gift”!  And I can’t thank you enough for “giving your gift away”.  You give your gift to complete strangers to provide comfort.  It does that and so much more, it is a life long treasure that will be handed down from generation to generation.

I’m not sure I can express myself so that you can fully understand the depth of my gratitude.  Thank you Michael.  Thank you for finding your gift and thank you for giving it away.  May faith fill your heart, and may God’s love surround you today and always.

Thank you for blessing me!

Deepest Regards,
Cheryl Harris

(letter and photo courtesy of Cheryl Harris and Michael G. Reagan)

The “Michael” Cheryl speaks so fondly of is Michael G. Reagan, Artist and founder of The Fallen Heroes Project.

Michael G. Reagan is an internationally-recognized portrait artist who has assisted charities such as the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center raise over $10 million through his drawn and donated autographed celebrity portraits. As a portrait artist for more than 30 years, Reagan has drawn approximately 10,000 portraits including over 1500 portraits of celebrities, professional athletes, U.S. presidents and other heads of state.

But, Michael calls The Fallen Heroes Project “the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. This project reached into my chest and touched a part of my heart that I really didn’t think existed”.

“Our mission is to honor the American Fallen Heroes for their ultimate sacrifice during the war against terrorism. The foundation will provide the resources to produce and distribute to each family a hand-drawn portrait of their Fallen Hero, created by artist Michael G. Reagan, free of charge. Each portrait is intended to show our Love and Respect for these Heroes and their families.”

To date Michael has created over 1900 portraits of Fallen Heroes for grieving families. If you have a Fallen Hero and would like a portrait contact Michael by clicking HERE. If you would like to see portraits that Michael has completed and read letters from receiving families click HERE.

Shipping, art supplies and packaging are all costly out of pocket expenses for Michael. I ask you to make a generous tax deductible personal or corporate donation while visiting The Fallen Heroes Project website.  Click HERE for previous post on The Fallen Heroes Project.

Thank you Michael

Ms Sparky