Family of fallen Marine receives artist’s portrait

Between two saluting Marines, Cpl. Christopher Scherer rests before a room full of military veterans, family, and friends. All eyes are on him.

A bagpipe player performs "Amazing Grace" as Scherer’s family gathers onstage, crying and hugging each other.

They have come to take him home to Long Island, N.Y.

"He was our son and our boy," said Janet Scherer, Christopher’s mother. "I’m proud of all the things he accomplished, but now it’s time to bring him home."

A portrait of Scherer was presented to his family on Sunday during the Swett Warriors Gala at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

The painting was created by Texan artist Phil Taylor, who has presented families across the country with portraits of their fallen loved ones through his American Fallen Soldiers project.

"It’s about remembering the fallen hero, but it’s also become a lot more," Taylor said. "It’s about bringing comfort and healing and closure to the family."

Taylor began painting portraits of fallen soldiers after he attended the funeral of friend Capt. Blake Russell in 2006.

Wanting to restore Russell’s personality on canvas, Taylor painted a portrait of Russell in uniform and gave it to his family in 2007.

"His dad called me and told me he felt like his son had finally come home," Taylor said. "I started the project in 2007, beginning with Blake Russell."

Taylor has been an artist for more than 30 years, specializing in black-and-white portraits with colored accents.

He chooses his subjects mostly through online submissions on the project’s website.

Sorting through about 7,000 entries, he picks the families that need closure and support his cause.

When the portraits are completed, he travels to the family’s house and delivers the portraits in person.

"I make about 35 portraits a year, and each takes about 70 to 80 hours to complete," Taylor said. "Scherer is my 174th portrait. This is a journey. I restore the men (and women) and bring them back to their families."

In Scherer’s case, Taylor brought Christopher to an event supported by Swett & Crawford Group, an Atlanta-based insurance brokerage company.

The company asked that Taylor paint Scherer and present him to his family in Las Vegas.

"I thank the Scherer family for lending me their son for 80 hours so I could talk with him and bring him home," Taylor said.

Scherer died in combat on July 21, 2007, shot by an enemy sniper in Iraq when he was 21 years old.

Born in East Northport, N.Y., Scherer had wanted to be in the military since he was a child. After Sept. 11, he told his parents he wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps.

"My parents told him to research it and come up with the right reasons to join," said Tim Scherer, Christopher’s brother. "He came back and said he wanted to honor and serve his country. They couldn’t argue with that."

Tim said some people didn’t expect much out of his brother when he was in high school because he didn’t get good grades.

"But when he became a Marine, he became a man," Tim said. "He knew what he was capable of then."

During one of his leaves, Christopher visited his home in New York and went to his high school in full uniform.

"He basically said, ‘Look at what I’ve become now,’ " Tim said. "He proved them all wrong."

In April 2007, Christopher shipped out as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force with the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

In Kuwait, where they waited to be sent to Iraq, Christopher earned the rank of corporal on June 1.

He was killed seven weeks later in the province of Al Anbar, Iraq.

"I’m so proud of what my brother’s done," Tim said. "We miss him."

The event also honored fallen Navy Seal Lt. Michael Murphy, 29, who died in Afghanistan in 2005.

Murphy was the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the war in Afghanistan.

The USS Michael Murphy, a 510-foot Navy destroyer, was also named in his honor.

"Whenever he came home, the phone and doorbell would not stop ringing. He always had a way of bringing people together," said Maureen Murphy, Michael’s mother. "And now look, he’s still bringing everyone together."

Contact reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0264.

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