HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Susan Servais gently pressed her forehead against the portrait of her son. His green eyes smiled out at her and the audience of about 200 that gathered to pay respects to a hero, and see his portrait unveiled Oct. 19, in Destin, Fla.
The man with the green eyes and kind smile is Senior Airman Adam Servais, an Air Force Special Operations Command combat controller who was killed in action Aug. 19, 2006, in Afghanistan. Servais, 23, was working as a joint terminal attack controller on a special forces team when he fell while returning fire against the enemy during an ambush on his convoy in the Uruzgan province. It was his second deployment. The American Fallen Soldiers Project honored his sacrifice by presenting his mother and father, Peter and Susan Servais, and his sister, Laura, with a portrait of Adam. The goal of the American Fallen Soldiers Project, a nonprofit organization run by artist Phil Taylor and his wife Lisa, is to bring comfort and healing to the families of fallen warriors by presenting them with a custom painting of their loved one.
Taylor paints and presents about 35 portraits a year to families of fallen military members.
"I hope those beautiful green eyes stare back at you for many years to come," Taylor told the family as he unveiled the painting and “Amazing Grace” sounded on the bagpipes. The portrait of Servais, of Onalaska, Wis., was presented during the 2013 Combat Control Association Reunion which marked the 60th year of combat control as an Air Force career field. Lt. Col. Michael Flatten, the event's guest speaker, was the director of operations at the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, at Hurlburt Field, Fla., when Servais was assigned there. He spoke to Servais' spirit and exemplary work as a combat controller. "Adam was the perfect balance of good-natured, fun and borderline getting in trouble," Flatten said. "The other side of him was the serious operator -- the guy who knows how to turn it on when the mission is deadly serious. Where we sent Adam for his deployment is historically one of the most intense locations for combat we have ever seen. For his first JTAC deployment, we handpicked Adam for that location because he was just that good." Servais’s father said even as a boy his son loved being in the action, whether it was camping with his family, playing football, baseball or, his favorite sport, hockey. "He had this Big Wheel that he would ride up and down the driveway," he said. "The faster he'd go, the more he loved it." Servais found his calling after he enlisted in the Air Force in 2002 at 19 and became a combat controller on completion of Advanced Skills Training in September 2004. His mother said she thinks her son would have made a career of combat control were he still alive because he enjoyed his work and being a part of the special tactics brotherhood so much. "Many people work their whole lives and hate their jobs, but Adam loved what he did," she said. "He loved it to the limit. He pushed as far as he could go." Since his death seven years ago, the Servais family has remained in close contact with the community their son loved. His father thanked the American Fallen Soldiers Project and all those attendees for honoring the life of his son, adding the AFSOC community has stood by them. "This is a very special day for Susan, myself and Laura," he said. "We are so lucky because the military never forgets us. It helps us through all the difficulties and keeps in touch. This is very special and dear to us and will be for the rest of our lives." Among the crowd honoring Servais and his family were 15 other family members of fallen special operations forces members and several wounded warriors.