By Mike Bush
Lebanon, MO (KSDK)- Winter is never rushed in Lebanon, Missouri. It hangs on, like the last leaves on a tree. But even when it snows here, it's not enough to wash the grief away.
"It's just a matter of getting up and you know you have to take care of your kids, " says Sarah Parrish.
For Parrish and her two children, 5 year old Hayden and 1 1/2 year old Gracie, it's been a difficult time. Sarah's husband Larry, a combat engineer with the Missouri National Guard was killed in Iraq last October by a roadside bomb.
"He could be in a group of people not knowing any of them and before he left, everybody would be his best friend, " she explains.
What Sgt. Parrish didn't know was that he had friends he never even met. On this day, that's something Sarah discovered when a package arrived. It was a gift from a woman 1, 253 miles away.
From the art studio in her home in Manti, Utah, Kaziah Hancock is on a mission.
"The thing is, I can't just take and take and take and never give nothing back, " she says.
As bold and vibrant as her paintings, Kaziah is gifted with both a brush and a lack of inhibition. On her easel, she begins a portrait of Sgt. Parrish using not just her hands, but her heart.
"I mean this is a daddy. This is a family man. He was just in a war zone because that's what he had to do, " she ponders.
When she heard about the first Utah soldier killed in Iraq, she wanted to do something for his family.
Three years later, she's done something for the families of nearly 300 fallen soldiers.
"This war is just the saddest damn thing in all the world, " she says.
Kaziah's original oil on canvas landscapes and portraits have sold for as much as $15,000. Her paintings of fallen soldiers are given to their families for free.
"The tragedy would be, if they were to be forgotten. That would be the tragedy, " Kaziah explains.
Kaziah lives on a 15 acre ranch that she shares with dozens of goats.
"When I come home, they're family, " she laughs.
She calls this, the American dream.
"Beautiful land, beautiful water rights, wonderful good home, a nice car, good wine, a fine cigar. Hell, I appreciate everything, everyday".
That's why she started what's now known as Project Compassion.
One word that the families never hear is no. A friend recently suggested that she couldn't possibly paint all the fallen soldiers.
"And I says, well little sweetheart, I'll tell you what. I'll either continue to paint how many I can every year until I get 'em painted or I'll expire trying."
For all the moms and dads and wives and children left behind bythe brave men and women fighting this war, Kaziah says she just can't let them down.
Back in Lebanon, the package is finally opened and Sgt. Larry Parrish has come home.
With the painting, a note that reads.."I can feel his caring and sharing. God be with you, love Kaziah."
"It means a lot that a stranger would say, can I offer you something and show you my support, " says Parrish through tears.
It's a hug for those left behind to their own battles.
A portrait of a hero like the woman who painted it that is truly a work of art.