Attendees shed tears and gave thanks during a powerful tribute at Loyola Friday afternoon to Illinois’ fallen soldiers.
The “Portrait of a Fallen Soldier” exhibit on the first floor of Damen Student Center chronicled the 291 U.S. soldiers from Illinois who have died in the War on Terror since 9/11 with individual penciled portraits. Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled the exhibit at a press conference in Damen Student Center.
With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 this weekend, the portrait exhibit is a timely reminder of those who have died serving the United States in the weeks, months and years following the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Since the September 11 attacks, 6,746 U.S. military service members have died fighting the War on Terror, according to the Department of Defense.
Gov. Quinn explained the importance of never forgetting the sacrifices made by service men and women, as well as by the families who support them.
“These pictures are going to last long after we’re on this earth,” said Quinn. “People a hundred years from now are going to look at these portraits and look into the eyes of these service members and see how special they were, and I think that means a lot to the family [members].”
Cameron Schilling, the artist behind the nearly 300 individual portraits, spoke with humility about his simplistic yet significant project.
“I think there is one debt that we can repay [to the soldiers], … the duty to honor their memory,” said Schilling.
Gov. Quinn and Schilling were joined by several members of Gold Star families — families who have lost their sons and daughters serving in the armed forces — Lt. Col. Matthew Yandura of Loyola’s ROTC program and Anita Lumpkin, the military veteran student services coordinator at Loyola.
Lumpkin fought tears during her speech concerning the bravery of soldiers, and Gold Star mother Sue Weinger cried speaking about about her deceased son Robert.
Gold Star father Jim Frazier gave a heartfelt testimony about the importance of remembering fallen heroes and the importance of thanking the families who also make sacrifices. Frazier lost his son, Jacob, in Afghanistan in 2003.
“We’re in a club that no one wants to be in,” Frazier said.
He added that students who encounter anyone wearing a Gold Star pin should not hesitate to thank that person for his or her family’s sacrifice.
For more information on each individual service member portrayed, Quinn said to visit Operation Homefront’s webpage.