This year, Veterans Day falls on 11-11-11 -- a remarkable date on which to honor the men and women who have served in our nation's armed forces.
The suburbs and city feature a number of exhibits and events that pay tribute to the troops and remember those who gave their lives for the call of duty.
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So in honor of Veterans Day today, we offer a sampling of suggestions sure to inspire and enlighten.
'Memories of World War II'
The black-and-white photograph is a familiar one: A sailor kisses a nurse on the streets of New York City as Americans celebrate V-J Day -- and the end of World War II.
The moment was frozen in time by U.S. Navy photojournalist Victor Jorgensen, and it's part of the "Memories of World War II: Photographs from the Archives of The Associated Press" exhibit at the new Pritzker Military Library in Chicago.
More than 100 AP photographs from World War II are featured. They capture moments big and small -- troops arriving on the beaches in Normandy, actor Jimmy Stewart being inducted into the military, paratroopers nervously preparing to jump from an airplane.
"There are some very powerful images," said Laura Martinez, education coordinator at the Pritzker Military Library. "The exhibit really draws you in. People spend a lot of time going from photo to photo."
The museum is offering special hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and free admission Friday for Veterans Day. Events for the day include a flag ceremony and refreshments.
"Memories of World War II" runs through Jan. 22, at the Pritzker Military Library, 104 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays. Admission is $5. Tuesdays are free for visitors with an active military ID. (312) 374-9333 or visit pritzkermilitarylibrary.org.
Field of light
An estimated 2,200 candles will be placed on the parade field and the sidewalks at Cantigny Park and the First Division Museum in Wheaton for the annual Veterans Day Luminary Tribute.
Each candle represents six 1st Infantry Division soldiers killed in action from World War I to the current day, said Jeff Reiter, senior manager of communications at Cantigny Park and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, in a statement. The luminaries also pay tribute to more than 650,000 men and women who have died in combat since the Revolutionary War, Reiter added.
"When you see all those rows of lights, you think about all of the personal sacrifices that were made, and all of the families that were affected by the loss of a loved one who went to war," Reiter said.
Guests can stroll through the rows of luminaries, or view the lights from their cars, following a set driving route.
As part of the Veterans Day activities, the museum will offer its Veterans' Voices program with re-enactors reading aloud from letters written by U.S. soldiers.
The Luminary Tribute begins at dusk (about 6 p.m.) and runs until 9 p.m. Friday at Cantigny Park and First Division Museum, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton. Veterans' Voices takes place at 6 and 8 p.m. Admission and parking are free. (630) 260-8227 or firstdivisionmuseum.org.
The exhibit "March On: Veterans' Stories of Life, Love, Honor and Duty" runs through Wednesday, Nov. 30, at The Gallery at the Garlands in Barrington.
Fifteen veterans, all current Barrington residents, were photographed and interviewed about their memories of war, said Brian Warling of Warling Studios in Chicago, the exhibit's photographer.
"I would say these are very intimate portraits -- some are extremely dramatic," Warling said.
In one photograph, Harry Logue, 85, stands with a custom-made replica of the PT boat he served on as a teenager, as his pale blue eyes gaze directly into the camera. Logue joined the Navy at age 17 and served from 1943 to 1946. He also served as an Army staff sergeant from 1950 to 1951.
Interviewing the veterans for the text that accompanies the photographs was a moving experience, said Kathy Wolf, a publicist with Allison Consulting, and one of two writers for the exhibit.
"Their stories are all so inspiring," Wolf said.
And although they served decades ago, for many of the veterans, the memories are still fresh, Warling recalled.
"A couple of the veterans broke down when we were talking," Warling said. "They talked about what they had learned and experienced, and how it affected the rest of their lives."
"March On" runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (including Thanksgiving Day) through Wednesday, Nov. 30, at The Gallery at the Garlands, 1000 Garlands Lane, Barrington. Admission is free. (847) 304-1996.
The National Veterans Art Museum (formerly the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum) in Chicago opens its newest exhibit, "Radical Vulnerability," Friday.
The exhibition features 22 artistic statements by seven combat veterans (including vets from Iraq and Afghanistan), looking at the military, war and its effect on those who are part of it.
Marine veteran Regina Vasquez has designed her "Fatigue Clothesline," an installation piece with embroidered words inside of military uniforms. The uniforms hang together, as if on a clothesline, said Ted Stanuga, general manager of the museum.
Fifteen plaster cast arms reach out to visitors from a 20-foot wall in Army Reserves veteran Edgar Gonzalez Baeza's installation piece "They're Mine to Keep." Many of the arms are missing hands and fingers.
The installation is meant to show the physical toll of war.
"'Radical Vulnerability' will change your life, and it will change your opinion about the effects of war. It will give you a lot to think about," Stanuga said.
The museum is offering free admission today in honor of Veterans Day. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A reception runs from 5 to 8 p.m.
"Radical Vulnerability" is set to run through Nov. 11, 2012, at the National Veterans Art Museum, 1801 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago. Regular museum admission is $7-$10. Active military are free. (312) 326-0270 or nvvam.org.
Russell Military Museum
For an up-close look at military equipment, head to the Russell Military Museum.
Museum director Mark Sonday, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, says his venue has 10,000 indoor feet of jeeps, trucks and helicopters -- and 10 acres of outdoor exhibits with planes, helicopters, trucks and cannons.
The oldest items date back to the Civil War. Items from World War I and World War II share space with the modern vehicles of Desert Storm.
"To a little guy who is age 6 or 7, seeing a tank up close is awesome," Sonday said.
One of the museum's most unusual pieces -- complete with serial number -- might elicit a few snickers from those same 6-year-olds.
At least those who appreciate bathroom humor.
"We used it back in the Vietnam era," Sonday said. "A transmitter was disguised in this replica of dog doo -- so when the enemy was walking in the jungles in Vietnam, it would just blend right in."
The Russell Military Museum is at 43363 Old Highway 41, in Russell. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays an Sundays in November. The museum will close for the season on Thursday, Dec. 1, and reopen in March. General admission is $5-$10. Kids ages 2 and under are free. (847) 395-7020 or russellmilitarymuseum.com.
Deep inside Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry lies the U-505, the only German submarine in the United States.
The 35,000-square-foot World War II sub was captured by the U.S. Navy.
"It's now a national memorial to the 55,000 U.S. sailors who died on the high seas in both World War I and World War II," said Ed McDonald, director of facilities and operations at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Guests can tour the submarine to get a peek at the tiny bunks the crew slept in and a four-burner hot plate where three meals a day were cooked for 59 crew members.
Visitors can also choose to take a more in-depth tour that re-creates life onboard the submarine with authentic lighting and music.
"We try and put you in the boat at the time of capture. We remind people they are in a space where men had to sleep with torpedoes hanging over their heads," McDonald said.
The Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (except on Christmas Day). General admission is $9-$15. The tour of the U-505 is an additional $6-$8. msichicago.org.