Artist Captures Spirit Of Fallen Heroes

Wednesday, May 7th 2008, 5:02 pm
By: News On 6

It's true what they say about a little boy growing up. How the changes come so quickly, in the blink of an eye. You love him and protect him. Then one day he tells you it's time to let go. That something's calling him away.

News On 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports for one family, a new flagpole signals profound pride and unimaginable grief. Alongside their front door is the heartbreaking confirmation of a family never to be whole again because the Iraq War has come home.

"Miss him everyday.  Think about him," said Chuck Roberts.

Trevor Roberts told his parents, Chuck and Twyla, that he wanted to be a missionary. He wanted to work with children, especially. But that's a big step for an 18-year-old.

So before Trevor set off to save the world, he stopped first at the Marine recruiter's office.

"One of the reasons he joined the Marines he wanted stories to tell, he wanted to be able to experience life," said Chuck Roberts.

Chuck Roberts says his son's eyes were opened in Iraq, to misery and suffering and death, but also to hope.

On the video Chuck and Twyla found on Trevor's laptop, the one the Marines sent back from Iraq, their son captured the daily Humvee patrols that made up his day. The videos were monotonous, mostly, terrifying at times. And sprinkled in were images of Iraqi kids gathered on street corners. Trevor tried to engage them, paid attention to them when no one else would.

"He took the time to look and notice and see into their eyes and see what their actions and reactions were," said Chuck Roberts.

On his cell phone was a picture of Trevor and the 5-year-old daughter of an Iraqi police chief. He was busy gathering the stories he hoped would make him a better person. And then on a day late in March last year, Trevor climbed in his Humvee for one of those routine patrols.

"It's been hard to understand why God would cut his life short knowing what he wanted to do with his life," said Twyla Roberts.

Trevor Roberts was 21-years-old the day he died and 12 days away from coming home.

At the base of a mountain in Utah, spring has brought change to Kaziah Hancock's place, too.

There's a new crop of kids in the goat herd. It was easy to see how they've captured her heart. Inside her little ranch house, Kaziah's was about to meet the latest man to break her heart.

Oklahoma's Trevor Roberts and his 5-year-old friend.

Fate graced Kaziah with the talents of an artist. Though she has learned in the past few years that a painter's brush is little match for the brutality and senselessness of war.

"I don't understand it. I can't make sense out of that freakin' mess for love nor money. I can't but I understand these guys, they're believers, they're innocent, they're dedicated, they're idealists, in their heart they're gonna try to make a difference and you gotta respect that," said Kaziah Hancock.

For Kaziah, the journey began with the death of Utah's first soldier in Iraq. She painted his portrait, and sent it to his family, free of charge. And then she painted another, and another and another. Because the deaths just kept mounting and their pictures just kept coming.

Trevor Roberts' image comes to life on Kaziah's easel on the one year anniversary of his death in Iraq. It is the same day American military deaths in Iraq hit 4,000.

Including Trevor, Kaziah has now painted the portraits of 453 of those men and women.

"I'll do as many as I can 'till I get 'em all painted, or I die trying," said Kaziah Hancock.

And so day-after-day, she paces the floor in her bedroom studio, drawing respite from the beauty just outside the picture window. She looks this country's war dead in the eye.

"I feel like I so know him, you know, that I could walk up to him and just start having a conversation," said Hancock.

She imagines the lives they touched, and the possibilities cut short. And in the only way she knows how, she thanks them, and the families who gave them to this country.

"Thank God that there's kids like that still bein' born," said Hancock.

Kaziah tries mightily to keep the sadness at bay, with her music and her moves. But the losses of the war, the what-ifs and the might-have-beens, are stacked against her walls and it often overwhelms.

This woman who could never have children of her own has created instead a tribute to the children we've all lost as a nation.

"It's the mother's heart within me that has the empathy for the parents and the appreciation for the beauty of that human being," said Hancock.

And then, as if by magic, comes the point at which not one more dab of paint. Not one more splash of color can do anything more to capture a young Marine's soul.

"There's a lot of love in that and I know it, by God," said Hancock.

And with that, it's time to send Trevor Roberts home to Oklahoma.

"And it's gonna say, loud and clear without one other word from me, I think your son is a damn fine guy," said Hancock.

And across the plains, and over the mountains, on a goat farm in Utah, Kaziah has begun to salve another family's grief. She hopes for an end to it all and dreams of the day she'll never have to paint another soldier. Yet she knows all the while that hopes and dreams are the first casualties of war.

"I will feel like a cement block has been lifted off my back when the last man is brought home and on American soil,' said Hancock.