Above and Beyond Memorial

The National Veterans Art Museum
Chicago, IL

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 War. Above 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.

Below is a close up of the memorial


All Photos from Chicago Tribune