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National Veterans Art Museum to Put Spotlight on Wounded Veterans

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jason Ross as painted by Victor Juhasz, one of the paintings featured in the Joe Bonham Project at the National Veterans Art Museum. [The Joe Bonham Project]

PORTAGE PARK — The National Veterans Art Museum will mark Memorial Day with the opening of an exhibit designed to spotlight veterans wounded in action.

The Joe Bonham Project: Drawing the Stories of America’s Wounded Veterans, which features more than a hundred drawings and illustrations created while the soldiers were patients at Veterans Administration Hospitals throughout the United States, will open Monday at the museum, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Former Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Michael D. Fay, a combat artist and the founder of The Joe Bonham Project, and Dr. Anna Stachyra, the chief of education services at Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital, mark the exhibit's opening and Memorial Day with speeches set for 2 p.m. Monday.

Heather Cherone says the exhibit will be a stark reminder of war reality:

Featuring pieces created in a variety of media by 15 combat and civilian artists, the Joe Bonham Project strives to show the real face of war and its aftermath, organizers said.

The exhibit is named after the central character in Dalton Trumbo's 1938 novel "Johnny Got His Gun," which depicts the horrors of World War I.

"The awe-inspiring power of this exhibit lies in the fact that the artists are bringing recognition to an aspect of war that is often inconceivable to those who haven’t experienced these realities first hand," said gallery coordinator Destinee Oitzinger. "More importantly they humanize the veterans by capturing their individual personalities, and their strength and perseverance rather than equating them to merely the sum of their wounds."

The artists spent significant amounts of time with the soldiers, sailors and Marines that they painted and sketched while they were admitted to surgical shock-trauma wards after suffering multiple amputation injuries and disfiguring facial wounds in battle.

All volunteered to be sketched, officials said.

The exhibit is the first to open since Brendan Foster took over in March as executive director of the museum in the Six Corners Shopping District.

"The Joe Bonham Project exemplifies the heart of the National Veterans Art Museum’s mission to foster a greater understanding of the real impact of war," Foster said. "This exhibit brings to the forefront the conversations that society must have about the tangible cost of war."

The exhibit will be on display Monday through Aug. 28.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, call 312-326-0270 or go to nvam.org or joebonhamproject.blogspot.com.

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