Exhibit honors memory of fallen Illinois service members

Woman walks past Portraits of a Soldier exhibit

The “Portraits of a Soldier” exhibit will be displayed through Friday. Photo: S.K. Vemmer


Faces of bravery, service and sacrifice — in sketches of the more than 300 Illinois service people who’ve been killed since 9/11 — are on display through Friday at Student Center East.

Last Thursday on Patriot Day, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Gov. Pat Quinn opened the exhibit with these words: “We see with ‘Portraits of a Soldier’ the faces and souls of those service members who answered the call of duty after 9/11, went forward in the face of danger, and lost their lives defending our democracy.”

Origins of the traveling exhibit date to 2004, when Mattoon, Illinois, artist Cameron Schilling drew a pencil portrait of Army Spc. Charles Neeley, a fellow Mattoon resident who died in Iraq.

The following year, Schilling decided to sketch all Illinois service members who have been killed since 9/11. So far he’s completed 294 drawings, with another 21 listed in the exhibit as “pending.”

The sketches appear on 17 panels, about 6 feet high and 3 feet wide, with 17 or 18 portraits — each about 9 inches high — per panel. Behind them are flowing red and white stripes suggesting an American flag.

The subjects served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Thirteen are women. Listed for each is his or her branch of service, age, home town and date of death.

“Keeping the memory of those we lost and the cost of the freedoms we enjoy is an important part of Patriot Day,” said Rodrigo Garcia, acting director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and a UIC business alumnus. “We owe a debt, not only to these fallen, but their brother and sister veterans, almost 800,000 across Illinois.”

The exhibit is displayed on the second floor East Terrace of Student Center East.

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