"Project: Hero" to Honor the Fallen; Assist US Military Veterans


Published on April 1 2013 4:09 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 12:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

More than 300 Illinois service men and women, including Eastern Illinois University alumnus Lt. Jared Southworth of Oakland, will be honored at Booth Library on April 4 and 5.

Stephen Knotts, EIU veterans services coordinator, said the Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall is a near 200-foot wall of headshots of service men and women who were killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operating Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn.  The wall includes the names, portraits, hometowns, ranks and dates of death of these military heroes.

Don Pannier of Washburn originated the wall to honor his son who was killed in Iraq in 2008.

Members of the public are invited to visit the wall.  There is no charge; however, donations will be accepted.

The wall’s display on the EIU campus is part of a two-day event called “Project: Hero” that will include a veterans services fair, an ice cream social and a self defense class.  The Illinois Patriot Guard Riders also plan to place a line of flags outside of Booth Library to honor the men and women who sacrificed themselves for this country.

“The event is honoring veterans and making others aware of the sacrifices that men and women have made to the United States,” Knotts said.

The veterans services fair -- Rucksacks to Backpacks -- will feature more than 30 organizations from on and off campus, including veterans organizations and registered student organizations.  These veterans support groups include the Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

“We wanted to bring them all on campus so campus veterans and community veterans can see what is available to them,” Knotts said.

Many times, he added, veterans are bombarded with so many different veterans groups that it becomes “white noise” to them and they can’t decide with which one to affiliate.

During the fair, Veterans Services will be accepting donations for school supplies.  Many times, Knotts said, individuals transitioning from the military to college do not have enough money for school supplies.  This summer, every military veteran who starts school at EIU will receive the supplies they’ll need.

Knotts said events like this are important because they help bridge the gap between veterans and civilians.

Less than 1 percent of the United States’ population has ever been in the United States Armed Forces, which means there is a cultural awareness gap between people who are protecting the rights of the U.S. and people of who are protected, Knotts said.