Mr. Speaker, on the wall in my offices in Washington and Texas, hang pictures, faces, of fallen Texas warriors. These pictures remind all those who visit that freedom comes with a price. One man in southeastern Texas is commemorating the memory of these brave men and women in a unique way. Ken Pridgeon has a deep respect for the military.
He served ten years in the Air Force as an electronics technician, until retiring from the military with a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. During his time in the service, he developed his talents as an artist, transforming Sepia tone family pictures into color photos during deployments for his brothers-in-arms.
During a time when he was stationed in Florida, he was even lucky enough to take an art class run by American legend Norman Rockwall. His artistic abilities led to him taking a job as a billboard artist in the Houston area after his retirement from the Air Force. Suspended 65 feet above the road, Ken painted advertisements on roadside billboards for decades.
It was perilous work, but Pridgeon became a master of his profession. Ken’s high esteem for America’s servicemen never left him and eventually inspired him to pursue a new project that would combine this respect with his artistic side.
Compelled to commemorate the sacrifice of fallen U.S. members of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, he began to paint portraits of Texans who gave their lives in defense of our country in those conflicts. What started as merely a side project turned into a full-time calling, as Ken began expanding his collection to servicemen outside of Texas.
To date, he has painted 200 portraits of fallen American warriors. He donates a print of each portrait to the family of the portrayed, and he tries to consult them in creating each piece so that he can add personal touches to the painting.
Ken often spends up to fourteen hours a day painting, beginning before the crack of dawn and ending well after sundown. Ken began displaying these portraits in a gallery in Baytown, Texas, his hometown.
Recently, he relocated his works to the newly opened Fallen Warriors Memorial gallery on Cutten Road in Houston. These portraits complement the nearby Fallen Warriors Memorial, and now visitors can come face to face with some of the fallen servicemen honored by the memorial in Ken’s gallery.
Mr. Speaker, General George Patton once said, ‘‘While we mourn the loss of such men, we should thank God that such men ever lived.’’ Ken Pridgeon’s paintings provide a fitting tribute to our country’s fallen warriors, a rare breed of Americans.
And that’s just the way it is.