When McKinney resident Colin Kimball was 9 years old, a close family friend was killed while fighting in the Vietnam War. Frank “Frankie” Lacey died on March 28, 1968, at age 19.

Kimball said that traumatic event set in motion a lifetime goal to keep Frankie’s memory alive. Along the way, his purpose transformed into a project honoring Collin County’s many fallen heroes.

In 2011, during the Collin County Veterans Memorial dedication, he met Deidra Bryan Washam, whose husband, Cpl. Charles W. “Bill” Bryan, was killed in action in 1968.

At the time of the introduction, Kimball had already started doing unique digital portraits of military members, including one of his father and one of Frankie. Kimball promised he would make a portrait of Bryan. The portrait, which took two years to complete, was put on display at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in McKinney.

But Kimball said he was concerned that non-VFW members would not learn about Bryan, a decorated U.S. Marine who had been awarded the Navy Cross for valor, among other honors.

In 2013, when Kimball had jury duty at the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, he saw a portrait of veteran Audie Murphy surrounded by a lot of empty wall space. An idea crystalized. With just a few phone calls, he received approval to start the Collin County Fallen Warriors Portrait Project.

On Veterans Day that year, the first batch of Kimball’s portraits was installed at the courthouse. Among them was a portrait of Bryan.

These days, it takes anywhere from eight hours to six months for Kimball to complete a portrait. He starts with a photo of the fallen soldier and uses three different software programs to match the soldier with the correct military uniform. He also incorporates patches, ranks, medals, badges and other appropriate items.

Kimball said he has found this project, for which he donates his time and skills, has affected him in a surprising way.

“Some of these guys, Frankie included, come to me in my dreams,” he said. “They come when I need them. Most come to me as young men, every now and then I get one that is an old man, and they are thanking me.”

Over the last nine years, Kimball has completed 86 portraits, 81 of which have been installed at the courthouse. Kimball said his mission is to complete 428 portraits, one to represent each name engraved on the Wall of Honor at the Collin County Veterans Memorial.

“The goal is to portray the nobility and glory of the warrior without glorifying the war,” he said.

Russell A. Steindam Courts Building

Portraits on display during regular business hours

2100 Bloomdale Road, McKinney