‘Portrait of a Soldier’ exhibit honors fallen soldiers from the Chicago area

September 11th Anniversary

As we approach the 20-year anniversary of a terrible terror attack on American soil, many remember the legacy of the young men and women from the Chicago area who fought and died in the years that followed.

WGN’s Ben Bradley and photojournalist Kevin Doellman explore an exhibit that has unfortunately grown over the years.

“He was one of the most caring people I’ve ever met in my life,” Marine widow Katie Stack said.

It’s been 10 years since Stack lost her husband, Marine Lance Corporal James Stack in Afghanistan. Thursday, at the Arlington Heights library she often visited as a kid, the ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ exhibit opens, re-opening a flood of memories.

“If this doesn’t give you a sense of who he is, for the six weeks he was deployed in Afghanistan, he wrote me like 16 letters in six weeks,” Stack said.

For Paul and Joy Syverson, coming face-to-face with a drawing of their son Paul, a Hersey High School graduate killed in 2004 in Iraq was an emotionally challenging and moving moment.

His is one of more than 300 images on this mobile and moving memorial.

“There’s been displays all over the state and we’ve been to several from the state Capitol to Rockford to downtown Chicago,” Paul Syverson said.

It started when a staff member for former Governor Pat Quinn named Cameron Schilling began making pencil drawings of the fallen, as Quinn would travel the state to attend their funerals, meet their families and celebrate their lives.

It’s a legacy that has outlasted Quinn’s political career, growing into an everlasting way to honor the fallen.

“I went to the funerals to meet their families and Cameron later drew their portraits, and that’s when we decided to make it a memorial. A way for all people in Illinois to see the men and women who answered the call of duty and volunteered to defend our democracy,” Quinn said.

For Katie Stack, whose daughter was just one year old at the time, the exhibit is a reminder that time passes, but love does not fade.

“This is a very moving, powerful exhibit. Each of these drawings showcases a life that has been given for our country and freedom,” Arlington Heights library director Michael Driskell said.

The ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ exhibit will be on display at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library from this Saturday, Sept. 11 through Sept. 30.

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