A hugely popular and moving collection of sketches of Illinois’ fallen soldiers will soon be coming to the artist’s school, Eastern Illinois University, as part of the project’s statewide tour.
Cameron Schilling, an EIU student from Mattoon, has received much praise and attention for the sketches he’s drawn to memorialize Illinois soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
The collection of sketches, called “Portrait of a Soldier,” will be displayed at EIU from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 in the MLK Jr. Union’s University Ballroom.
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who has been a major supporter of the project, plans to attend the EIU exhibit at 4 p.m. Monday to honor Schilling for his efforts.
“The Portrait of a Soldier memorial is a moving tribute to men and women who have given their last full measure of devotion to our democracy,” Quinn said. “I commend Cameron Schilling for making sure our fallen military heroes live forever in our memory. I encourage everyone to come see the Portrait of a Soldier memorial.”
Schilling started the project after first drawing sketches of a couple of fallen soldiers for his family’s funeral home in Mattoon.
When he later decided to expand the project, he contacted Quinn’s office for help in locating families of Illinois’ fallen soldiers.
Quinn was so impressed with Schilling’s work that he helped to have the collection displayed in venues throughout the state, including Chicago and the state fair in Springfield.
The exhibit was unveiled by Quinn in a Memorial Day tribute in Chicago, where dozens of families were allowed to view the sketches in privacy before the exhibit opened to the public.
Schilling said the positive response from families and the general public has been “nothing short of amazing.”
Schilling is particularly excited about the exhibit’s upcoming appearance at EIU, where he hopes many students will take the time to visit the display, “even if it’s just for 10 minutes.”
“I’m trying to get the younger people to come out,” Schilling said. “Things like this put your life into a little bit of perspective, especially as a younger person.”
Schilling, who plans to graduate in December, is considering many options for his future, including possibly attending graduate school, joining the Peace Corps or working in public administration.
“Seeing how the lieutenant governor has used his office as such a positive force by working with military families has kind of given me the incentive to get involved in public policy,” Schilling said.
To view the portraits, visit the project’s Web site, created by Schilling and fellow EIU student Nathan Catt: http://www.portraitofasoldier.org.
“This is our way of showing gratitude and respect to the service men and women and their families from our state,” the website states.
Military families who would like to receive portraits of their loved ones may contact Schilling via the website.