Portrait Freedom: Ten Years of Giving


Portrait Freedom: Ten Years of Giving

temp2bob-47b8cf02b3127cce98548f83ac7500000046100Actmjhw4bs2UA_489702009Organization makes portraits for the families of fallen military personnel

Portrait Freedom is an organization that creates scroll sawn portraits of U.S. military personnel who lost their lives in the Afghan/Iraqi conflict. The portraits are offered as a reassurance to bereaved families that their loved ones are not forgotten.

Founded ten years ago, the group numbers more than 480 volunteers in the United States, Canada, and other countries. However, with the casualty count nearing 7,000, the volunteers have their work cut out for them. According to organizer Gary Browning, “We’ve cut portraits for 1,227 service personnel so far, but our goal is to create and cut wooden portraits of every individual who lost their life in this conflict, as long as we can find their family. It is something we want to do to show our support for our military personnel and to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.”

When a U.S. military service person dies on active duty, Portrait Freedom contacts his or her family to offer a portrait and request photos. The scroll sawyer makes a pattern from the snapshots and recreates the image in 1/8″ plywood using a scroll saw. The artist sands, finishes, and sometimes frames each portrait before either hand-delivering or mailing it to the family.

Retired colonel and Oklahoma scroll-saw enthusiast Kenneth Younker has worked on the portraits of 57 individuals. “We are only obligated to cut two portraits per family: one framed and one unframed. But many of us cut four, six, or even eight portraits where the fallen soldier has a large number of family members,” he said. “I am extremely proud to be a part of this organization, and I work constantly to get families to take advantage of what we have to offer to them at no charge.”

Florida resident Frank Raab has cut 50 portraits, and said he is touched by the gratitude he feels from the families of fallen soldiers. “One family sends me a card each year on the anniversary of the death of their son, which I really appreciate.”

According to Gary, the sawyers strive for accuracy. “We do our best to make the portrait’s image and character come through so the family members can instantly connect with them. From the positive feedback we get, I think we’re are doing just that.”

After receiving a portrait, one father wrote, “When we opened the box and unwrapped the portrait of our son, my wife and I wept. We did not only because of our loss, but the honor and love you showed through this everlasting tribute to Michael, and as you must be doing for everyone you undertake and complete. We thank you so very much for this gift. It will remain in the Beluga family for generations.”

Gary said that, for most scrollers, the cuts they make go deeper than the wood. “The powerful feeling that one gets in doing the best pattern or scrolling that they can do to honor someone that has given all for this country hits home and makes us feel more patriotic and proud to be Americans.”

For more heartwarming words from family members or to get involved in Portrait Freedom, visit the website at: http://portraitfreedom.shutterfly.com/

Additional Resources
Our Heroes Project

ourheroes_project_598851169Jim Gilbert and his wife, Connie, operate a non-profit business creating scroll sawn wooden portraits for U.S. servicemen who have served in from the military, police, fire, EMS, POWs, MIAs, FBI, etc. Their motto is, “Supporting our heroes one portrait at a time.”

“Basically, we cut portraits for families or individuals who have given or risked their life for our city, our county, our state, our homes,” said Jim. “We love giving back, and what better way than to immortalize a hero in wood?”

For more information, visit www.ourheroesproject.org.

Personal Portraits

yawor_painting_222616697A pyrographer and painter, Alex Yawor has made it a personal project to make oil paintings of fallen military personnel. He gives the framed 16″ by 20″ portraits to the parents or spouse of the deceased at no charge. Alex explained, “I read about a woman painting portraits of our fallen heroes and giving them to the parents or wife. I felt that was the reason she was put on earth, and because I was given the ability to paint portraits, then that is why I am here.” He has painted more than 50 men and women over the last three years.

Contact Alex Yawor at ayawor142@comcast.net.