A Message from the Artist about “The Matador Fallen”
“The Matador Fallen” original drawing was done in 2005 using Prismacolor color pencils on a light blue mat board. I am the artist, Marla Knapic- Derga, and the Stepmother of Cpl. Dustin A. Derga, one of the Marines depicted. Dustin’s portrait appears at the center bottom of the drawing.

I believe all those who die while defending the lives of others have a special place in Heaven. Since we often think of Heaven as being “among the clouds” I have depicted these brave heroes as such. These men were also devoted Americans and our flag is depicted to honor their American spirit. The soldier’s cross represents their supreme sacrifice and devotion to duty.

Within the drawing are the portraits of each Marine from Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines who so valiantly gave his life in the line of duty during Operation Matador in May of 2005. Each portrait was based on pictures my husband Bob and I found on the Internet. Fellow Marines and family took many of these pictures. I wish to thank all those whose pictures I used to help create these portraits.

The two standing figures at the top of the drawing represent Dustin Derga and Darlene Parks as imagined in a dream Darlene had three weeks before Dustin was killed. Darlene lived in Texas and was related through marriage to my sister Susan. Darlene never knew of or met Dustin or us. Susan was told of Darlene’s dream while visiting in Texas just before Dustin was killed. While she was still out in Texas Susan relayed this dream to Bob and me via telephone on May 11, 2005 just two days after Dustin was killed. I would like to take a moment to tell you the content of and circumstances surrounding that dream.

Three weeks before Dustin was killed Darlene told her daughter of a disturbing dream she had. In the dream Darlene saw herself dressed in white and standing all alone in a Heaven like place. Then a Marine dressed in fatigues walked up behind her, took her hand and they walked into Heaven together. She said she looked at the Marine in her dream and said he seemed familiar but she did not recognize him. Darlene did not know any Marines nor did she have any indication that she might die soon when she had this dream.

Yet, Darlene died one hour after Dustin did on May 8th, 2005. Bob and I believe that the Marine in Darlene’s dream was Dustin. We also believe that the fact that we were told this dream so soon after Dustin’s death was an answer to our earnest prayers to have complete assurance that Dustin was indeed safe at home in Heaven.

Soon after hearing Darlene’s dream I began dreaming of the images you see depicted in “The Matador Fallen”. I feel God inspired this drawing. It was Him who gave me the artistic talent and vision. It was Him who compelled me to continue drawing through many days of tears and healing. Doing this drawing was a way of working through my own personal grief over the loss of Dustin.

However, as the weeks went by, and more and more people saw the drawing we realized that it could also bring healing to the families of these fallen heroes. Because of that Bob and I have given each set of parents and the spouses of these fallen heroes a signed limited edition print of “The Matador Fallen” as a gift of appreciation for their great sacrifice. We hope the image will bring them some comfort and peace as it has done so for us. For anyone who is interested, we also have images of the print out on www.reachamarine.com

In closing, I want to emphasis that God deserves all the glory and praise for giving us such great assurance that Dustin and all our heroes are safe at home in Heaven with Him living face to face in glory. I also feel that the praise and glory for the completion of this first drawing goes to Him as well. As the earthly artist, I just obeyed His prompting and faithfully showed up in my studio, pencil in hand with eyes and heart open to His leading.

Thank you! God bless you and God bless America!
Semper Fi,
Marla Derga

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