New home found for ‘dog tag’ exhibit honoring those killed in Vietnam War


After a nearly 3-year search, the National Veterans Art Museum, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., has found a new home for its “Above and Beyond” exhibit that honors all of the U.S. military personnel killed in the Vietnam War.

Plans call for the memorial exhibit to be on display at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., from Feb. 20, 2016, to April 15, 2020.

The exhibit comprises of more than 58,000 hand-stamped replicated dog tags of every U.S. soldier killed during his or her service to the country during the war. The approximately 440 square-foot- exhibit is designed to hang from a ceiling, as a stainless steel wire is used to hold each dog tag in place.

The museum first displayed the exhibit in 2001 at its Near South Side facility at 1801 S. Indiana Ave., but the dog tags had to be placed in storage after the museum relocated to the Six Corners commercial district in 2012.

Museum chairman Lionel Rabb said that the new facility did not have the space to accommodate the hanging of the exhibit and the subsequent crowds which it would have attracted. “People call everyday looking for it,” Rabb said. “It’s a very powerful piece.”

The exhibit was commissioned by the museum and created by veterans Rick Steinbock, Ned Broderick, Joe Fornelli and Mike Helbing. The museum’s roots date back to 1981 when a group of Vietnam veterans put together an art exhibition depicting their experiences in Vietnam, leading to the formation of the Vietnam Veterans Art Group, which 15 years later helped open the museum on Indiana.

“Chicago Public Library is extremely proud to feature the ‘Above and Beyond’ exhibit at the Harold Washington Library Center,” library commissioner Brian Bannon said. “It is so important that the people of Chicago see their library as a place where ideas are brought to life and shared, whether it be through a book, picture, story or a highly impactful piece of art.”

The museum is conducting an inventory of the dog tags, and new ones will be created if any names of those killed in the war have been left out, Rabb said.

The installation of the exhibit at the library is being funded through grants from the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and the Rabb Family Foundation.