The raw emotion of five combat deaths in Afghanistan resurfaced in Hawaii today and Thursday via a Texas artist’s portraits memorializing the fallen service members.
Damien Memorial School’s approximately 400 students assembled in the school gym this morning for the unveiling of one of those portraits — that of Army 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24, a 2002 Damien graduate who was killed in a 2008 firefight in eastern Afghanistan while trying to protect his soldiers.
Artist Phil Taylor with the American Fallen Soldiers Project unveiled the 20-by-34-inch acrylic on canvas likeness of Brostrom, which, like other service members, is depicted in black and white with color added to eyes, "the window to the soul," Taylor said.
"That’s definitely Jonathan. It’s amazing," his father, retired Army Col. David Brostrom said as he saw the work for the first time with his wife and Jonathan’s mother, Mary Jo, who live in Aiea.
The photo that Taylor used was one of the last taken of their son in eastern Afghanistan.
The portrait will be displayed in the school’s library. David Brostrom told the Damien students the ceremony was really for them and that the seeds of his son’s battlefield bravery "were planted here at this school."
"All of you are going to have challenges and trials and tribulations and decisions to make throughout your life — hopefully not as dire as the one that Jonathan had to make on the battlefield," David Brostrom said.
His son was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for bravery. Jonathan Brostrom left the cover of a command area to reinforce other soldiers whose position was in danger of being overrun. He was one of nine U.S. soldiers killed that day.
Taylor has produced the portraits of at least 92 fallen service members.
An unveiling is scheduled this afternoon on the Battleship Missouri of a portrait of Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Kraig Vickers, a 1992 Maui High School graduate and explosive ordnance disposal technician who was among 30 American service members killed Aug. 6 when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Taylor presented prints of three Navy SEALs who were killed in a ground firefight in Afghanistan in 2005 to the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 command at Pearl Harbor.
Two of the SEALs, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, 29, and Sonar Technician 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson, 29, were based at Pearl Harbor. A third SEAL who died, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz, 25, was based out of Virginia.