Artist Rachel Myers paints and presents portrait to fallen deputy’s parents
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) Master Deputy Rachel Myers presented a uniquely beautiful gift to the parents of fallen soldier and deputy Ryan Rawl. The gift, a Myers-painted portrait of Rawl, was unveiled during the 11th-annual Ryan Rawl Memorial Workout Event at the South Carolina State House, Tuesday morning, July 4.
“It looks just like him,” said a teary-eyed Diane Rawl, mother of the deceased. “It takes your breath away.”
An award-winning artist and arts instructor in addition to serving as an RCSD school resource officer (SRO), Myers said it took her approximately 12 weeks to paint the portrait which depicts Rawl wearing his U.S. Army uniform in one half of the image and his RCSD uniform in the other half.
“Overwhelming,” is how Rawl’s father Stanley described Myers’ gift.
“It is beautiful beyond words,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who has hosted the annual Independence Day workout event in honor of Rawl since 2013. “And it is yet another testament to our department’s commitment to honoring and never forgetting one of our own.”
A former Lexington High School football player and wrestler who later graduated from The Citadel, Rawl joined the ranks of RCSD in 2005. The following year, he also received his U.S. Army commission in the S.C. Army National Guard.
On June 20, 2012, Rawl was temporarily detached from duties back home as an RCSD school resource officer and deployed as a 1st lieutenant serving with the Guard’s 133rd Military Police Company, when tragedy struck. He and other soldiers were manning a security checkpoint at a crowded market in Khost, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, when both the checkpoint and the market were attacked by a suicide bomber.
The ensuing blast killed Rawl and fellow soldiers Sgt. John David Meador II, also of Lexington (who served with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Dept.), and Sgt. 1st Class Matthew B. Thomas of Travelers Rest. Five other Americans were seriously wounded, and 21 Afghans were killed with scores more wounded.
Like Myers, Rawl was an SRO.
“He loved his work,” said Lott. “He had a servant leader’s heart, and he made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The first Ryan Rawl Memorial Workout Event was held July 4, 2013, and events since have included station-to-station workouts – similar to the one being held this year – as well as previous 5K Freedom Runs and a Kids Fun Run.
Proceeds from this year’s event benefit The Big Red Barn Retreat in Blythewood.