Michael Reagan is a Vietnam veteran. He's also an artist who draws portraits of fallen soldiers. Since 2003, the Edmonds man has drawn more than 5,000 portraits, and he delivers them to the families of the fallen for free.
For the first time since the project began, he is speaking publicly about something else: the NFL player protests during the national anthem.
“Anybody who knows me knows I held my friend, two of them, Peter Armstrong and Vincent Santaniello, March 28, 1968. Vincent’s blood is still on my hands. Those men came home covered in an American flag,” Reagan said. “Disrespect the flag and you break my heart.”
“It isn’t that their concerns aren’t justified, they are,” Reagan said. “This is not the vehicle to use. People are dying for our flag.”
For nearly 15 years, Reagan’s art has been solely focused on fallen heroes.
After the NFL protests on Sunday, he drew someone else. On Sunday he drew Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva was the one player on the Steelers who stood outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart while the rest of his team protested injustice from the locker room during the national anthem.
Since the game, Villanueva has said it was never his intention to be away from his teammates during the anthem, but Reagan still felt it was important to say thanks to the lineman who also happens to be a veteran.
“I wanted to tell him about who I am and what I’ve been doing, but I also wanted to thank him for his three tours in Afghanistan and what he did on Sunday,” Reagan said. “This soldier came out of the tunnel, put his hand on his chest, and paid attention to the anthem and the flag, which is really important to me.”
Reagan’s favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks, also protested injustice during the national anthem. He said despite their protest, he will remain their fan for a lifetime.
“I love the Seahawks. I’ll always be a fan,” Reagan said. “These are good people. They are all good people. It isn’t that they are bad people and it isn’t that they don’t have a gripe. They do. They’re using the wrong tool. They’re taking what I served for and risked my life for and what my friends died for as their tool. That’s a mistake.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Fallen Heroes Project you can find the details here.