September 12, 2012
"The Portrait of a Soldier" exhibit is now open at the Kaskaskia College Lifelong Learning Center. College President Dr. Jim Underwood noted the significance of what the display of hand-sketched portraits of fallen service members from Illinois represented during the opening ceremony Tuesday night. "Some 288 portraits are on exhibit here of 274 men and 14 women, individuals who have lost their life fighting for this country and serving this great nation to preserve the freedoms that we all enjoy and respect as Americans", said Underwood.
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon discussed the stories behind those represented by the portraits and those they left hallowed because they are gone. She cited the story of Casey Hills of Salem, as an example. Casey was killed while volunteering to replace another soldier so he could go to a naturalization ceremony. "Casey said I'll take care of you, I got that, I'll volunteer to do this, you go to your citizenship ceremony, and that's where he lost his life. It just seems to be a perfect example of what the cost is of citizenship for all of us of rights that we sometimes take for granted", said Casey.
The parents of two soldiers killed in the war on terrorism that are featured in the portraits were in attendance. They were the parents of Nicholas Kleibocker of Iuka and Wyatt Eisenhower of Pinckneyville. Wyatt's mother, Gay, noted like many she got busy in her own life following 9-11 and didn't realize the change the war on terrorism would make in her life until her son was killed in 2005.
"Each one of these men and women on these portraits didn't die for a republican or a democrat or a non-partisan group. They died for the U.S.A. They died for the patriotism of their country. I think when we draw together, we need to remember whether we're everyday people walking through life or politicians or whatever, but we need to stand by one another as they stood with each other in the fight", said Eisenhower.
The Portrait of a Soldier exhibit will remain open to the public in the Kaskaskia College Lifelong Learning Center through Saturday, September 22nd, when the college holds its annual Family Reunion and Open House.
Underwood also noted the special Veterans Tribute being planned for the college campus that will feature the names of all military members, past and present, with a tie to the college district. He reported $400,000 of the $530,000 needed for the first phase of the project has now been raised. A concert featuring Jennifer Thompson and guests to benefit the Tribute was held following the opening reception. Simon commended the college on its fitting tribute to the veterans.