Missouri Artist Honors Fallen Servicemembers in Afghanistan, Their Families with Painstakingly Detailed Portraits

by Matthew Memrick

One Missouri artist hopes she can add to the outpouring of support for the families of 13 fallen U.S. servicemembers who died in Afghanistan last month.

Independence, Mo.-artist Evelyn Neal uses penning, or the dozens of different ballpoint pens, to draw celebrities or sports stars. Usually, the artist makes one dot of ink at a time.

But the Aug. 26 Afghanistan airport tragedy affected her in a way that she wanted to help while expressing her emotions.

“The news and how it happened was really devastating,” Neal told KCTV. “And it touched me personally.”

So she set out to draw each of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.

“Families and everybody should remember and keep their name and their legacy alive. These people are such amazing people, and they had families and goals and dreams,” Neal told KMBC.

Artist Works To Capture Details Of Servicemembers

She found photos of the victims and became determined to make renderings of them. She drew portraits of the 13 victims for 24 hours straight. Medals, smiles, dimples – she worked to capture all the details.

“Once I start drawing, I will not stop,” Neal said.

One of her works was of Marine Sgt. Nicole Lee of Sacramento, Calif.

“When I found this picture, I knew it was the perfect picture to draw and choose because she’s looking down at the child.”

Neal hopes to connect with the Afghanistan victims’ families and share her work with them, possibly with social media assistance. Her 13 drawings are up on her Facebook page.

She hopes the families will be thankful and grateful for the art once she can get it in their hands.

“It’s hard to lose someone that you love, very close, and it can take a toll on you,” Neal told CBS 5. 

Neal emphasizes with the families, saying she hopes her work can bring “a little bit of comfort” in their time of pain. 

Other Tributes Memorialize Afghanistan Tragedy

After hearing the news of the airport attack, a Michigan man stepped up with 13 draped flags around an American flag lowered to half-staff. The memorial is just outside his home.

Community members in Bruce de Wit’s Kent County town have visited the memorial. The man said he made it as a tribute to the Afghanistan victims and didn’t want any credit.

“This has had a much bigger impact than I ever expected,” de Wit told The Grand Rapids Press. “I’m actually kind of humbled on what it is.”

Army veteran Chris Ross visited the site on Aug. 30. He took pictures and shook de Wit’s hand. 

Across the nation, individuals and businesses have worked to memorialize the 13 service people. They make up hundreds of American service members who died in the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

According to the Reuters news agency, the U.S. military death toll in the Afghan war since 2001 is roughly 2,500.