Appleton family receives portrait of their son who died while serving in Afghanistan

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. - The parents of a fallen soldier from Appleton were asked to attend an American Legion Post 38 meeting on Monday, but they had no idea that there was a portrait of their son there waiting for them.

Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Garrick Eppinger Jr. was killed while serving his third tour in Afghanistan on September 17th, 2011. 

Linda and Gerrick Eppinger Sr. both served in the Navy and have been to many American Legion Post 38 meetings before.

A few members of the American Legion knew of an artist, a 94 year-old Marine Corp veteran named Alex Yawor of Pennsylvania, who painted portraits of fallen soldiers for families.

They contacted Yawor and soon, the painting was underway.

On Monday, an American flag covered the portrait to hid the surprise.

When the flag was removed, the Eppingers were at a loss for words. 

"Oh my goodness. Not knowing what to expect up under the cover, and we'd seen other artists that did presentations but, it was almost like he was standing in the room, and he just captured him dead on," Linda and Gerrick Sr. said. 

The Eppingers said the portrait looked just like their son. 

"It's pretty much as if you had a homecoming, and the individual walked through the door for a Christmas present, and just the fact that we've been wondering from time to time, we had small pictures of him, but really no formal pictures of him in uniform because he didn't take that many, and to have this is pretty much a homecoming," Garrick Sr. said.

The portrait, which the Eppingers plan to hang in their living room, will also be a source of comfort.

"I find this to be such an overwhelming honor because he requested that he be cremated, so outside of a little small box there really isn't anything to show what he looked like or to actually go into a photo album and say ok well this is him here and there," Garrick Sr. said. "But having this, it's more a conversation piece because everyone that knew him will walk in the house can say 'Oh yeah, that's him." 

The artist, Alex Yawor, has painted a total of 133 portraits for families of fallen soldiers around the country. 


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