A Vietnam War veteran has drawn the portraits of thousands of fallen soldiers to give to their families.
Michael Reagan first began drawing his portraits in 2003 when a woman wanted to commission a picture of her late husband - a Corpsman in Iraq who had passed away the year before - but he wanted to draw it for free.
After she received the portrait, she reached out to Reagan to tell him how much she appreciated his work.
"She said, 'I’m calling you today because yesterday, when I opened up the picture and looked into my husband’s eyes, I was able to reconnect instantly," Reagan told wbur. "We talked about things that we hadn’t finished talking about when he died. I ended my conversation with him telling him I loved him.' She said, 'I felt him say he loved me back. And for the first time in a year, I’ve slept all night.'"
While the talented artist from Edmonds, Washington, now specializes in portraits of veterans, he first began drawing pictures of celebrities to be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.
He quit his job and became dedicated to his new calling.
"If I can spend a few hours sitting here at my drawing table and bring back a smile to a widow's face, how can I do anything else?" Reagan told NBC. "You know, God gave me this ability to draw pictures."
While Reagan said he considers the work he's doing as a "blessing," he said it can also be difficult at times.
"I spend a lot of my life looking at dead people, and I’m not gonna pretend. It is hard. So on my walks what I do is transition. It allows me to say goodbye to the people I just drew," he said.
Reagan said he usually draws two portraits a day, spending about five hours on each picture. He always begins his portraits with the fallen soldier's eyes, which he said makes the portraits come to life. After he's finished, he goes for a five mile walk to reflect on the portraits he's drawn for the day.
"This is my life," Reagan said. "I'm living my destiny. And it took me a couple of years to understand what that really meant. It took a comment by a Gold Star father. One time, he said to me, 'You know what you’re getting after doing all this work, right? Your soul is getting to come home from Vietnam.' When he said it, I knew it was true."