LUTZ, Fla. — It has been more than six months since 13 American servicemen were killed at Kabul airport during the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
During this time, we have shared many emotional stories. One that hit close to home for many was a track with Paula Knauss Selph, the mother of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss.
Ryan grew up in Tennessee, but his mother lives in the Tampa Bay area. A local veterans outreach organization is doing what it can to help heal his pain.
Since childhood, drawing has always been something that Brian Morris loved.
“I had my sketchbook with me when I deployed to Saudi Arabia in the late 90s on Operation Southern Watch,” Morris said.
He spent 20 years in the service of the US Air Force. At night, his sketchbook was there – and still is.
“I’m able to draw or paint or chalk and be able to take all the worries and everything that’s happened throughout the day and it just goes away and I can escape into my little world,” Morris said.
Over the years, many people asked him to draw portraits of loved ones who served.
“I know it brings a lot of warmth to the people who receive them. It’s their family members, many of them are fallen soldiers and it just helps that healing process,” he said.
Recently he completed a very special portrait.
A year ago, he met US Army veteran Mack Macksam, the founder of Tampa Bay Veterans Art Center.
He asked Brian to draw a portrait of US Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss as a gift to his mother.
“I was just shocked and stunned and overwhelmed by his loss, his anger, his rage. Just something that stuck in my mind,” Macksam said.
The Tampa Bay Veterans Art Center has been around for nearly a decade.
It’s about mental health healing and suicide prevention, not only for service members, but also for their loved ones.
“I hope this portrait will be part of his healing,” Macksam said.
“I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity and hope it stays in her home for eternity and she enjoys it and brings back fond memories for her,” Morris said.
On Tuesday evening, the Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay and artist Brian Morris will present the portrait to Ryan’s mother as part of a larger presentation at Seminole City Hall at 6 p.m.