Kirkland resident, Juanita High grad remembered at Redmond VFW
By RAECHEL DAWSON
Kirkland Reporter Reporter
August 22, 2012 · Updated 4:34 PM
For many, mid-August symbolizes hot weather, beaches and a lackadaisical life style. But for Kirkland resident, Linda Clanin-Swanberg, this time of the month reminds her of the last time she saw her son.
“He came home seven years ago for two weeks in August on pre-deployment leave,” said Swanberg. “He was just really anxious to help his buds, I’ve never seen him so eager and ready to just do what he’d been trained to do for the last nine months.”
Lance Cpl. Shane Swanberg told his mom in 2005 he’d see her in just “seven short months” but was killed just 10 days after his deployment to Ramadi, Iraq in early September. He was 24 when he died.
Bellevue resident Robyn White shares a similar tragedy after her son, Joseph White, died on deployment in Afghanistan in 2009. Joseph had just gotten married a few months prior.
But on Aug. 16 friends, family and the fire department gathered around two planted trees with plaques and patriotic flags at the Redmond Veterans of Foreign Wars to remember the young men for their time served. The mother’s spoke of their loss and thanked John Kenny of VFW for organizing it all.
Both mothers are volunteers with VFW.
Kenny decided to plant the trees after Swanberg showed him a tree last year that her coworkers at the City of Redmond planted for her. Swanberg is the Fire Prevention Administrator Assistant of Redmond.
“You’re not supposed to outlive your own children,” said Redmond Mayor John Marchione, who knew Swanberg when her son was lost.
White said the memorial was meaningful to her because she knows “he’s being remembered and not forgotten.”
“He died doing what he wanted to do and we’re proud of him,” said White, who is also the mother of 10.
Swanberg said after her son’s death his “marine family” became her family.
“They call themselves my sons and call me mom. It’s just awesome,” said Swanberg. “It’s a real warm feeling in the midst of devastation.”
She then joined an organized support group called the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. There, she met White and developed a unique friendship.
“It’s one of these connections that I can’t explain,” Swanberg said.
Swanberg said that when new Gold Star mom’s join the group many of the current members gather around and support them.
“The first few years are so difficult,” she said.
Both of the woman were gifted pencil drawn portraits of their sons courtesy of local Edmond’s artist Michael Reagan. Reagan created the Fallen Heroes Project as a way to give families some way of remembering their loved ones.
Reagan is a Vietnam War veteran and has done over 3,000 Fallen Heroes portraits nationwide as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom. Reagan draws two portraits a day and, he says, each one takes about five hours. All of his portraits are done for free.
“It’s about love. You can’t rationalize why I’m doing what I’m doing,” said Reagan. “People have a hard time believing I’ve given up everything to do this.”
Reagan has drawn famous celebrities, presidents and the pope but he said his work with the Fallen Heroes Project gives him something spiritual.
“The day I’ll stop doing these portraits is the day before someone has to do mine,” said Reagan.
Reagan survived the summer of 1967 at Con Thien, a major battle ground during the Vietnam war. He said it was there that his friend died in his arms.
“He looked up at me and said, ‘Mike, I just want to go home’ and I watched him go,’” said Reagan. “It’s a vision I have every day.”
And it is this vision that drives him to send these portraits all over the world so that people can see their loved ones, with eyes that are full of life, one last time.
Donations for Reagan’s art can be given at FallenHeroesProject.org
Contact Kirkland Reporter Reporter Raechel Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 X5052.