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By: Brenda Torres

The Harold Washington Library in the South Loop is hosting an art installation from the National Veterans Art Museum.  The installation is called Above and Beyond and consists of 58,307 hand-stamped replicated dog tags that all hang from the third floor escalator lobby. Veteran artists Rick Steinbock, Ned Broderick, Joe Fornelli, and Mike Helbing, created the memorial.  Each of the dog tags represents the death a military member from the Vietnam War.

According to the brief history of the installation, the dog tags are arranged by date in order of the death of the military personnel.  Each dog tag shows their name, date of death and military branch. An actual, official military dog tag has the name, rank, serial number, and blood type of the military personnel. The work of art has one black dog tag and it is separated from the rest; it represents the military personnel that died from conditions from serving in the Vietnam War. It took two years to create.  

“Dog tags are very significant to me having served in the army.  I understand the significance of dog tags in terms of what it represents now, as a memory of service.  When you see a hanging dog tag that represents those who died in the military that is very strong symbolism to me.  In terms of art, this is magnificent,” said a Korean War Veteran, Bob, who served a total of eight years, as a Capitan.  He and his wife Joan were admiring the installation. “It’s quite the exhibit, unless you really stop and look at it you don’t realize what it is,” said Joan.

Photo of the Chicago Flag in Vietnam during the war by László Kondor.

The installation has a touchscreen monitor in front of it that explains Above and Beyond and other works of art that are located at the National Veterans Art Museum.  Next to it is a mural photo of the Chicago flag in Vietnam, in 1970 by László Kondor.  According to the explanation of the mural, the actual Chicago flag pictured in the photo is housed at the National Veterans Art Museum.

There is also an example display of what dog tags are and visitors can grab them. Depending which way the draft of air is blowing in the library, the Above and Beyond dog tags move, and can be heard throughout certain places of the library. Above and Beyond is the only memorial other than “The Wall” in Washington D.C. for Veterans of the Vietnam War.  

The installation will be available for the next four years at Harold Washington Library.


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