Soldier's Family Receives Special Gift

by Diane Tuazon
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Losing a family member in the military is heartbreaking, but one Odessa family is learning to move forward after being honored with a special gift in rememberance of their son.

Sgt. Kristopher Higdon served in the army for almost 8 years. He was known for his passion of fighting for his country. "Smiling, respectful, sincere about what he was doing. He loved the Army he was always about Go-Army!" Kristopher's Mother Ronda Higdon, said.

However, in May of 2007 that all changed. Sgt. Higdon was killed on duty in Iraq, and on Saturday, the family he left behind was given a special potrait to remember him by. 

"I'm hoping to get some closure. Having Kris around me will help me get through this day to day battle we go through of missing him," Ronda said.

Phil Taylor, founder of the American Fallen Soldier Project, says he developed a personal connection while working on the painting of Sgt. Higdon. "That's necessary to have that reference before I pick up a paintbrush. Once I connect with a soldier than I connect with the family and this is the end result. It's very personal and extremely rewarding, but quite emotional." Taylor said.

Even after 80 long hours of painting an accurate resemblence of Sgt. Higdon, Taylor says the end result is what keeps him going.  "What keeps me motivated and inspired to go back is the reward of watching the family go through the process of seeing their son," Taylor said.

As for a mother who longs for the presence of her son, having a life-like portrait of him reminds her of the life he lived. 

"I would take him back in a minute over all this, but knowing what he stood for; I'm just a proud mom," Ronda said.
A potrait given, and a tear shed for a fallen soldier who will never be forgotten.