To some, Michael Reagan is considered an Edmonds local legend. An international artist who has drawn the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Harrison Ford, Sen. John Glenn, Gregory Peck and many others, Mike — between portraits — is often seen walking around Edmonds carrying an American Flag in honor of those who have served and didn’t come home.
A Seattle native, Mike grew up in several area neighborhoods and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1965. After a football injury forced him from the weekend sandlot football gridiron, Mike drew his first significant portrait of Katherine Hepburn. A family friend was so impressed, he encouraged Mike to pursue a career as an artist. That was all he needed to hear.
And then he went to Vietnam. His experience in Vietnam changed his life — and more than 6,800 families of those who have had a loved one pay the full measure of service.
When Vinnie Santaniello, aka “Saint,” was mortally wounded in the hell of Vietnam, lying in the arms of Michael Reagan, his final words, “Mike…I…just…want…I just want…to…go…home” changed the world.
We often question whether one man or one woman can truly change the world. The answer is yes.
Today, through the Fallen Heroes Project, Michael — a civilian Medal of Honor recipient — keeps a part of Vinnie alive in each portrait he draws of a fallen hero. It is Vinnie that inspires Michael to keep going — to capture the smile of over 6,800 fallen heroes across the world so that their families know that their sacrifice is not forgotten.
Vinnie’s nephew, Ralph Vincent Morales, captures what made Vinnie so special to Mike and so many others in his book, A Saint’s Letters from the Depths of Hell.
In the 244 years of this nation, America has grown from the dedication and sacrifices of many. Michael Reagan is one who continues to serve and dedicate his life to the memory of those who sacrificed it all.
— By Mike Schindler
Edmonds resident Mike Schindler is the founder and chief executive officer of Operation Military Family Cares –– a 501(c)(3) veteran service organization and technology provider that combats veteran homelessness, while working to strengthen relationships and equip communities and families for success.