“ABOVE AND BEYOND” …. National Veterans Art Museum …. in Chicago!


~~January 16, 2014~~



On Memorial Day 2001, the museum added a stirring and spectacular new exhibit to its already highly praised fine art collection. The work of art, an immense 10 x 40 foot sculpture entitled Above and Beyond, is comprised of imprinted dog tags, one for each of the more than 58,000 service men and women who died in the Vietnam WarAbove and Beyond is the first new permanent Vietnam War memorial, other than The Wall in Washington, D.C., to list all those killed in action. 

Above and Beyond at the National Veterans Art Museum is a singular honor for Chicago. It was even the subject of a question on the TV show, Jeopardy, on Jan. 10, 2011.


When visitors first entered the museum’s original location on South Indiana Avenue, they heard a sound like wind chimes coming from above them and their attention was drawn upward 24 feet to the ceiling of the two-story high atrium.

They saw there above them, tens of thousands of metal dog tags, spaced evenly one inch apart, suspended from fine lines that allowed them to move like a living thing with the shifts in air currents.



Q. Are these the genuine issued tags from returning heroes, or were these stamped anew for the display from records of the war’s casualties?

A. Each dog tag represents one individual who lost their life in Vietnam. The dog tags were stamped on a dog tag machine by artists with the National Veterans Art Museum between 1999 and 2010 with the bulk installed in 2000 and others added as those identified as MIA have been named.

Q. What’s the significance of the black dog tag?

A. The black dog tag honors all the soldiers that took part in the Vietnam Theater that have died from various causes after they left Vietnam. These deaths were not directly from enemy action in Vietnam but are attributed to the theater by the fellow veterans that served there. These causes are suicide, agent orange, lingering disease, depression, substance abuse, unemployability, homelessness, and other causes stemming from service in Vietnam. This tag was instigated by artist Mike Helbing to honor those service members not on the wall.

Q. Who created Above and Beyond?

A. Artists involved with the creation of Above and Beyond were Rick Steinbock, Ned Broderick, Joe Fornelli and Mike Helbing.

Q. Does each dog tag have an individual soldier’s name on it?

A. Yes. Each dog tag is individually stamped with an individual’s soldier’s name, service arm, and date of death on it.

Q. How can I know if the name of someone I know is included in Above and Beyond?

A. If their name was included on The Wall in Washington, D.C. before 2010, then their name is included in Above and Beyond. You can learn more about names on The Wall by visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Q. Do you list the names of those lost who are memorialized in the Above and Beyond exhibit?

A. At present, the names of those memorialized in Above and Beyond are not available in a physical copy or online; once the exhibit is reopened to the public, an online directory will accompany the exhibition. In the meantime, you can search here for names of those memorialized on The Wall.

Q. Can you add dog tags to it? I have dog tags I would like to donate.

A. Each dog tag is stamped according to the records of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Although we truly appreciate your generosity, we cannot accept dog tags to add to the exhibit.

Q. How big is Above and Beyond?

A. Above and Beyond was initially installed in a space that was 10 feet x 40 feet, making it 400 square feet. The more than 58,000 dog tags are strung one inch apart from fine stainless steel rods. Future installations may take a different shape, but the square footage will remain the same.








When suspended from a ceiling, the wires cover 400 square feet to form “Above and Beyond Memorial,” a chilling, shimmering homage to those lost in the war.

But since the museum — founded by veterans who used art to process their experience of war — relocated a year ago without “Above and Beyond,” the piece has been without an official home and for the past seven months has been boxed in the basement.

Though museum officials at the time of the move said they had several leads on where they could move such a large-scale art installation, there is no current plan to hang “Above and Beyond.”


Now a group of veterans is pushing for it to hang at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Museum officials, meanwhile, say they are considering re-engineering the work so that it can travel, perhaps to spotlight the national art in the museum, before returning home permanently.

But the men who labored for more than 10 months to stamp each letter onto the dog tags and detangle thousands of wires fear they — and others — never again will gaze at what they describe as “hanging rain,” or hear the gentle chime of the tags when a breeze hits them.

“It’s very sad,” said Joe Fornelli, a soft-spoken Army veteran who commanded a Huey helicopter crew in the war, founded the museum and helped design the installation. “It was the apex of what we were trying to say with our art in a simple way: ‘Stop and remember.’ “

The concept for “Above and Beyond” was grand from the start: It would include the names of all 58,000 servicemen and women killed in Vietnam. There was never consideration of just a Chicago memorial — the only question was how to pull it off, Broderick said.


“We were talking about a lot of information,” he said, recalling a conversation with another artist, Rich Steinbock, about how to condense all of it. “And my home keys were on the desk with my dog tag on them. And I said, ‘We really have to (use) something this small.’ We looked at each other and it was like, ‘hell, we’ll do this.’ And that is what we did.”

So they ordered a Graphotype dog tag machine, a cast-iron structure that stands about 3 feet and has an antique-looking typewriter keyboard attached to a stamping mechanism.

It was Steinbock’s job to punch each letter of each name, his or her date of death and the branch of service. A sledge-hammer-like sound echoed in the museum for months: Bam. Bam. Bam.


“Ricky went to work and stamped those tags, and he did every single one,” Broderick said. “I liked (the sound) actually. It always felt like something was getting done.”

The machine remains on display in the museum.

The scope of “Above and Beyond” demanded a lot of design planning and detail work — manufacturing fixtures to hold the wires, which needed to be untangled when they arrived. Each dog tag was placed in order of the date of death.


Chicago Vietnam Veterans Art Museum




We ALL are ONE!!


~~Remember Our Soldiers~~


~~Uploaded on Mar 5, 2011~~

Remember our soldiers

I was just sitting enjoying my morning cup of coffee and checking my email and I found this one. I read it and felt that this message should be shared with every person who loves freedom. Even if you are opposed to war (and “especially if you hate war”) as most people are and do, you should thank our God in Heaven that there are young men and women who are willing to risk their lives to give us all the right to express our thoughts and keep this wonderful land of ours free.


22 thoughts on ““ABOVE AND BEYOND” …. National Veterans Art Museum …. in Chicago!

  1. I have seen many memorials to all the wars and ‘actions’, but I have not been able to see this one. To bad they had to disassemble it. I do hope they find some place where more of the public will look at it. The VA hospital is a good place, but let’s face it, unless you are a vet or a spouse/child of a vet, you wouldn’t even know it was there. I never went into a VA hospital or clinic until I married a vet, I had no idea even where they all were.
    Thanks for the story.

    Peace & Love


  2. I mourn for all the soldiers who have died serving our country. Dad was fortunate to return safely from World War II where his Rainbow Division liberated Dachau.


    • I will add that as soon as I get back to the PC. Thx …. Shame indeed. It should b proudly displayed. Can you fathom that each one of those was around the neck of a service man?


      • Well it’s partner was, the true dog tag if it was recovered was returned to a wife, mother or some other loved one along with a folded American flag. It lays now with other memories.


      • I know. I think these were made for the memorial as I remember. But still .. it represents each & every life that was lost in another senseless “war”.


      • Indeed. I don’t remember like you bc it wasn’t as much on our TV. However, I realized as much later & confirmed as I worked w the ones that made it back … even to the day when I retired 2/13. They are, & will always b special for me.


  3. I still recall the first time I heard the ‘Above and Beyond’ installation rustle as the dog tags moved in the air currents. I felt as though the voices of the dead were whispering to me. Having such a magnificent piece of art be packed away in boxes for several years now is heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.