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|An up close and personal interview with U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:|
Cpl Michael G Reagan U.S. Marine Corps (1966-1969)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
It was 1967, I had just graduated from high school and I had to make a decision, did I go to college, or get a job, or join the military. The military was something I believed I had a responsibility to do. So I joined and figured that if I was joining I needed to join the best and that was the Marine Corps.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
In '66 I was sent off to MCRD San Diego. After boot camp I as sent to Camp Pendleton for a few months, I was stationed at Margarita. Then I was sent to Vietnam, landed at Da Nang. The next day to Dong Ha and assigned to K 3/4. From there I was dropped off at a place named Con Thien, at the DMZ. I like to say I summered in 1967 at Con Thien. From there I spent most of my time on or right around the DMZ, Con Thien, Gio Lonh, Cam Lo, Camp Carroll etc. After I came home I spent some time and Treasure Island.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
If you were at the DMZ in 1967 & 1968 you were in some type of action every day. If you spent any time at Con Thien, especially the summer of '67 you were running from incoming every day. When not doing that you were on patrols looking for the bad guys. So the simple answer to this question, yes I was.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
I am a Marine. I earned the right to wear the Globe and Anchor. Last November in Anchorage (2010) I gave a speech to a group of returning Marines from Afghanistan. I started my talk with that comment made it clear that they appreciated that.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The ones I am most proud of are: National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/device. Then in 2007 I was awarded the Soochow Creek Medal from the Third Battalion Fourth Marines Association for the work I'm doing with the families of the fallen of these current wars.
I am doing one free portrait of a fallen hero for each family that has lost someone in the war. I have to date drawn almost 2600 free portraits. The Soochow Medal was given to the men of 3/4 back in 1932. It was an unofficial award given them for the work their extraordinary valor and bravery defending the city of Soochow Creek near Shanghai China.
In 1984 the Association began awarding it to individual members of 3/4 for their extraordinary efforts. This means the world to me.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
Lt Pete Wymes was my Platoon Commander when I arrived at Con Thien. His leadership, beginning that first day with the words, "If you want to stay alive learn from me", saved my life.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Christmas 1967. We needed beer and as the squad leader one of my jobs was to get supplies for my people. Now being at the DMZ meant getting the beer was not a run to the 7-11. So I took a trip up to the Captain's tent for a cigar. While there and while having a beer with the Captain and a few others, I started passing his beer out under the tent to my people. Once I had enough I decided it was time to go. I got up and with that the Captain looked at me and said, "All you needed to do was ask". I guess that's why he was the Captain!
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
While in 'Nam, in between the going out thing, I used to draw portraits for other Marines. Three years ago when I met up with my Platoon Commander he reminded me I used to draw on c-rat boxes. I would charge for the art and sent that money home.
When I came home from Vietnam I went to art school and the money I sent home helped a lot.
After graduating I learned how to program computers. I went to work at the University of Washington (Huskies) for the next 30 years. My official title was the Director of Trademarks and Licensing. My unofficial title was the Artist for the Huskies. I wear a 1991 UW NCAA National Championship Football Ring with my name and Artist on it. During this time I also kept doing portraits.
My portrait work includes such notables as Bob Hope, Katherine and Audrey Hepburn, Red Skelton, and Ingrid Bergman. In addition, he has done drawings of every single Heisman Trophy winner and a majority of the NFL Hall of Fame members.
Then after doing the portraits of six U.S. Presidents, I was asked to draw a special piece to commemorate President George W. Bush's election and a portrait of the First Lady, Laura Bush. I personally presented those originals to the President and First Lady.
When the President saw Laura's portrait he commented that I had caught the sparkle in her eyes. He said that he loved her so much that he wanted to see that sparkle in her eyes every day, so he would hang the portrait near the Oval Office.
I developed an idea. I began drawing two portraits of each celebrity, giving them one and asking them to autograph the second one. Then I donated that second drawing to local charity fund-raisers. Those portraits have now raised over $10 million dollars for charity. I had discovered His purpose.
Since that time, I have completed over 10,000 portraits of more 2,000 different celebrities and notable personalities. Beginning in 1997 and for the next five years I was the artist for the Playboy Playmates. Someone needed to do this work, why not me! Now when I draw portraits I now ask the celebrity to autograph as many as 10 blank illustration boards. I continue to donate theses images to fund-raisers throughout the nation.
Once during an auction for Children's Hospital, Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners purchased a set of my lithographs that featured President George and Barbara Bush for $12,000. Earlier in the same year an original portrait of Harrison Ford was sold at a Museum of Flight charity fund-raiser for $7,500.
But now I am doing the most important thing in my life. I am doing one free fallen hero portrait for their families. I have done over 3,000 of them to date. For more information on that go to; www.fallenheroesproject.org.
A Gold Star dad told me once, it has brought my soul home from 'Nam.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
The VFW (a Life Member) and The American Legion (a PUFL). Both organizations help me stay close to my brothers and sisters. In 2007 the American Legion gave me the Patriot of the Year Award and in 2009 the VFW gave me the VFW Commander in Chief Gold Medal of Merit Award for my work on the fallen hero portraits.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
Joining the Marine Corps helped me be the person I am today. Being in Vietnam, in a combat unit, taught be the importance of life. I think we would all be better off if everyone served.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
Live it, let it into your hearts. I once told a group of Marines at a talk I was giving that they'd be old folks when they really understood how important what they were doing was. Care about each other, don't depend on anyone else to do the caring.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
This web site lets me write down how it was. It makes me remember. It allows me to talk to the people that I know really care. It put me in touch with Doc (John) Nunn, my Corpsman in 'Nam and that in turn got me in touch with my Platoon Commander LT, Pete Wymes, my brother Jay Spindler and a few other very important people. These are people I served with and people I needed in my life.
Editor's Note: When I called Mike to tell him he had been selected for "Voices" we had a wonderful chat about his time in the Corps and his mission to make sure none of our Fallen are ever forgotten. He said "Someone once asked me why I never put the names on the sketches. I told them that you probably won't remember a name, but you will never forget that face."
After looking into the eyes of those he's frozen in time, I believe he's right.
Thank you Mike, your gift continues to touch all of us.
If you are a family member of a Fallen Hero, please contact Mike for a portrait.
Sketch is of LCpl Rogelio Ramirez-KIA Aug 26, 2007
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