To commemorate Memorial Day, Governor Pat Quinn today joined officials from the Illinois Tollway to unveil the "Portrait of a Soldier" memorial exhibit at the Hinsdale Oasis and announce the summer exhibit schedule at multiple Tollway Oases in Northern Illinois. Currently, the exhibit features a series of hand-drawn portraits of 288 of the 300 Illinois men and women who have fallen in service to our country since September 11, 2001.
"With "Portrait of a Soldier,' we pay a special tribute to our state's brave servicemembers who gave their lives to protect our freedom," Governor Quinn said. "From Memorial Day to Independence Day, visitors to Illinois Tollway Oases will have the opportunity to view the faces and read the names of our state's true heroes who remain in our hearts every day."
The exhibit, on display at the Hinsdale Oasis Friday, May 25 through Sunday, June 3, will then travel to the Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis through Sunday, June 10. The exhibit will also be on display at the Des Plaines, DeKalb, Belvidere and Lake Forest Oases, ending shortly after July 4.
"We are honored to display the portraits of Illinois' remarkable men and women whose bravery serves as an inspiration to us all," said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. "We invite Tollway customers to see this poignant exhibit and join us in commemorating the lives -- the sacrifice -- of our servicemembers."
Governor Quinn founded the "Portrait of a Soldier" memorial exhibit to honor fallen servicemembers in 2004, when artist Cameron Schilling of Mattoon drew the first portrait of Army Spc. Charles Neeley, also of Mattoon, after he was killed in Iraq. In October 2005, while a student at Eastern Illinois University, Schilling committed to drawing a portrait of every Illinois servicemember who has fallen during the Global War on Terror.
"Memorial Day is a great opportunity to reflect on and express thanks for the sacrifice that thousands upon thousands of military men and women have made in serving our country," said Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Borggren. "This sacred day also reminds us of our shared obligation to honor and remember our fallen heroes and their families."
Governor Quinn has long made commitment to veterans' affairs, servicemembers and their families one of his top priorities throughout his career in public service. He has led programs including the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program and the Veterans Cash lottery ticket, which has awarded more than $10 million to non-profit organizations across the state that provide health care and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, housing assistance, disability benefits and other services to Illinois Veterans.
As Lieutenant Governor, Governor Quinn championed the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund Act, establishing a fund to provide grants to families of Illinois National Guard members and Illinois residents serving in the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve components who were called to active duty as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. These grants help service members and their families with the costs of food, housing, utilities, medical services and other expense they struggle to afford because a wage-earner has temporarily left civilian employment to be placed on active military duty.
Governor Quinn launched "Operation Home Front" while he was Illinois State Treasurer to give National Guard members and reservists a tool informing them about their rights during the Gulf War. Today, the Governor has expanded Operation Home Front to be a place where active servicemembers and veterans can learn about the resources available to them and their families, and a place for the public to learn about different ways they can support our troops.
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