Home World ‘I want to remember’ – Chicago Tribune

‘I want to remember’ – Chicago Tribune

12
0


Remembering Our Fallen, a photographic memorial honoring members of the U.S. military who died in the Iraq and Afganistan wars, shows young men and women dressed in their official uniforms accompanied by a personal photo.

The casual photos are poignant. A U.S. Air Force sergeant on her wedding day. A solider is holding his baby. A Marine as he looked as a child.

Each provides the name, age, title and hometown of the person depicted along with the day and location where they died.

The memorial is on display at Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery throughout Memorial Day weekend. Its intent is to ensure those who died serving their country are never forgotten, organizers say.

Patriotic Productions, a nonprofit organization, created the traveling exhibit in 2010. Founders Bill and Evonne Williams, whose four sons served in the military, were moved to create it after reading a story about a father who believed his son, killed in military action, was forgotten before the war even ended, according to the organization’s website, patrioticproductions.org/rememberingourfallen.

It’s the organization’s belief, said Dave Luton, a national representative for Patriotic Productions, that the soldier only truly dies when he is forgotten. Luton travels with the exhibit as it moves around the country, a fitting “mission for an old Marine,” he says.

Elgin City Councilman Anthony Ortiz, responsible for helping bring the Remembering Our Fallen display to Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, points to a photo of (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)
Elgin City Councilman Anthony Ortiz, responsible for helping bring the Remembering Our Fallen display to Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, points to a photo of 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez, of Elgin, who died in 2012 during Operation Enduring Freedom. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)

Veterans who come to see Remembering Our Fallen find it an emotional experience.

“It hurts, but it also helps,” Luton said. “They would see their buddy that morning and he was gone that afternoon, and they didn’t get closure,” which this exhibit offers.

Elgin City Councilman Anthony Ortiz asked the city’s Cultural Arts and Special Events Department to bring the memorial to Elgin. He was on hand Friday to volunteer, putting up the panels that feature 5,394 names and photos.

“It’s enlightening,” Ortiz said of what he’s learned from Luton about the backstories behind some of those photos. Beyond that, however, it’s important that residents see and appreciate the sacrifices members of the military make for this country, he said.

Ortiz found the name and photo of 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez, of Elgin, who died in 2012 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The U.S. Post Office in Elgin was renamed in his honor a few years ago.

A Marine veteran himself, Ortiz lost dozens of friends in the war and he hopes to find their photos and names this weekend.

Carlos DeJesus, of Elgin, served two tours in Iraq in 2004 with the U.S. Army, retiring in 2018. He volunteered to work at the memorial, which he found to be an emotional experience.

“I want to remember and not let their sacrifice be forgotten,” he said.

One section of the traveling Remembering Our Fallen photo exhibit set up at Elgin's Bluff City Cemetery is dedicated to those who took their own lives after serving in the military in the years after 9/11. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)
One section of the traveling Remembering Our Fallen photo exhibit set up at Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery is dedicated to those who took their own lives after serving in the military in the years after 9/11. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)

The Global War on Terror, started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, now spans two decades and includes the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 7,000 people in the military have died in the decades that have passed.

The tally continues to go up as veterans from those conflicts struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), prompting some to take their own lives. There’s a section of the display dedicated just to them, Luton said.

“We have lost more veterans in the last 22 years to suicide than we lost in Vietnam in total,” he said.

Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.

Remembering Our Fallen is a photographic exhibit created by Patriotic Productions to remember more than 5,000 members of the military killed in action since 9/11. It will be on display at Elgin's Bluff City Cemetery through Memorial Day weekend. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)
Remembering Our Fallen is a photographic exhibit created by Patriotic Productions to remember more than 5,000 members of the military killed in action since 9/11. It will be on display at Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery through Memorial Day weekend. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here