CHICAGO – Gov.Pat Quinn commemorated Patriot Day, by officially opened the Portrait of a Soldier memorial exhibit at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The exhibit features a series of hand-drawn portraits of nearly all of the 326 Illinois men and women who have died while serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Sept. 11 will forever be a solemn day across America,” Quinn said. “Each of us owes a debt of gratitude to those whose lives were lost that fateful day, and in the days and years following the tragedy that forever changed our nation.
“‘Portrait of a Soldier’ commemorates some of our state’s greatest patriots and it is fitting that we honor them and their sacrifices on Patriot Day. This exhibit puts faces to the names of the brave men and women we lost while serving our country, and allows the people of Illinois to pay their respects.
“We will never forget Sept.11, and we will never forget all those who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms.”
The exhibit is on display starting today until Friday, Sept. 19, on the second floor of the Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted, at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
“It is fitting we honor these heroes on the anniversary of 9/11,” Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Acting Director Rodrigo Garcia said. “Keeping the memory of those we lost and the cost of the freedoms we enjoy is an important part of Patriot Day. We owe a debt, not only to these fallen, but their brother and sister veterans, almost 800,000 across Illinois.”
Pat Quinn established the Portrait of a Soldier memorial exhibit in 2004 to honor fallen Illinois service members. The series of portraits began when artist Cameron Schilling of Mattoon, Illinois, drew the first portrait of Army Spc. Charles Neeley, also of Mattoon, after Neeley was killed in Iraq. Schilling, a student at Eastern Illinois University at the time, committed to drawing a portrait of every Illinois service member who has fallen during the Global War on Terror.