This display had no bells and whistles, no flashing lights or moving
parts. Instead, it had faces of people who can no longer enjoy the
fun of a midway and whose voices have been silenced. The purpose of
the display is to create a memorial of their lives and honor their
The Illinois Fallen Heroes Wall displays 250 pictures of Illinois
soldiers who have died while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom
and Operation Iraqi Freedom -- the Afghan and Iraq wars. Along with
each soldier's picture is his or her rank, branch of service, date
of death, and hometown.
The original idea came from a Gold Star father in Ohio. (In
military terms, if families have a member in the military, they are
considered Blue Star. When a military person dies, the survivors are
Gold Star.) The idea spread through the Patriot Guard, the
nationwide organization that attends veterans' funerals, to show
respect for and honor the men and women who have served their
country. Members of the group attend only if invited by the family
of the deceased. They will also participate in parades, memorial
rides, soldiers' homecomings and attend fundraising events that
benefit veterans. Most attendance is by invitation.
The Illinois Patriot Guard Fallen Heroes Memorial Wall had its
initial showing in Woodstock in February. The Logan County Fair is
the 30th display location so far this year, and there are seven
additional events scheduled in upcoming weeks.
The reason the wall is at the Logan County Fair is due to a
conversation between John Coers of New Holland and Daniel Pannier of
Washburn, who met at the DeWitt County Fair in Farmer City. Dan's
brother, Phillip, was killed in action in January 2008 with his best
friend and their sergeant. The tailgate of Dan's truck is covered
with a mural that includes a picture of his brother and the American
flag. Coers asked about the mural, found out more about the memorial
wall and began to make arrangements for it to be displayed at the
The person responsible for transporting and hosting the display
in Lincoln was Don Pannier of Washburn. He and his wife, Robyn, are
Dan and Phillip's parents, and Don is a member of the Illinois
Patriot Guard. Due to his involvement in building and exhibiting the
Illinois Fallen Heroes Wall, he received the General Motors 2011
"Our Town, Our Heroes" award.
"We want to educate the public and allow families to see their
son, daughter, husband or father remembered and their life
acknowledged," Don Pannier said. "I'm not just here for my son, but
for all the families across Illinois who have lost someone. We
estimate the wall will travel about 30,000 miles this year, back and
forth, up and down the state of Illinois -- wherever they ask us to
"People need to know the individuals who gave them their
freedom," Pannier continued. "They need to see that the
numbers in the news are real people, with birth dates as well as
On Tuesday at the Logan County Fair, Pannier was accompanied by
Louis and Margaret Lindsey, members of the Patriot Guard Riders,
from Rantoul. Members of the Illinois Patriot Guard who are not
transporting the display volunteer to assist in setting up, taking
down and hosting the display. A group of central Illinois members
arrived late Wednesday afternoon to help Pannier dismantle and load
the display for his return trip home. His next display date is
Sunday, at Cabela's in Hoffman Estates.
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"Our granddaughter was stationed at the main airport in Iraq for
a year," Margaret Lindsey said, "and it was a scary and long year.
But she's home now, so we can count our blessings."
The first Illinois wall was an outdoor memorial at the Illinois
Patriot Guard's 2010 Gathering of the Guard in Knoxville. It was the
centerpiece of what they referred to as an "Honor Guard-en," which
included flags, flowers, the soldiers' field cross, service flags,
and the Honor and Remember flag.
The group decided the fallen soldiers' memorial should be shared
with as many people as possible, so it was re-created to be
transported. Only a few families are appointed to travel with the
wall, accompanying flags and other items. It is stored and
transported in a specially designed trailer.
Visitors to the wall can sign "The Pledge to Never Forget," which
states, in reference to fallen heroes: "I pledge to honor their
service, remember their sacrifice, celebrate their lives." The
pledge is given to the signer to keep as a reminder. Donations are
accepted to help defray costs of transporting the wall.
Upcoming events to support veterans:
Saturday, Sept. 17
Third annual Spc.
Phillip J. Pannier Fallen Hero's Memorial Ride (motorcycles,
trucks, cars), to begin at the Flame Restaurant, Metamora.
Signup starts at 8 a.m., and the ride leaves at 10 a.m. The cost
of $15 per driver and $5 for each passenger includes supper and
entertainment. Stops will be made at gravesites in Peoria,
Tazewell and Woodford counties.
Street dance in Benson from 5 p.m. to 1
a.m. Music will be provided by a DJ, Craig Gerdes, from Benson,
and the 4 1/2 Men Band, from Lincoln. There will also be a live
All proceeds from these events will be donated to the General
Wayne Downing Home for Veterans in Peoria and to the Goodwill
Veterans Reintegration Program, through the Spc. Phillip J. Pannier
Fallen Hero's Memorial Ride Fund.
If anyone wishes to schedule the Illinois Patriot Guard Fallen
Heroes Memorial Wall, or for more information, go to
[By MARLA BLAIR]