The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will thank military veterans for their service to the country by offering them free admission on Veterans Day.
And in the evening, the ALPLM will present an online chat with colorful veteran Vince Speranza, a paratrooper who saw action with the 101st Division during the Battle of the Bulge. He’ll talk about the many experiences he’s had since returning to the battle site in 2009, experiences that have turned him into something of a celebrity among the citizens of Belgium and military groups, young and old.
Speranza will be interviewed by Dr. Mark DePue, a military historian and head of the presidential library’s Oral History Program. At noon the next day, Nov. 12, DePue will also lead an online discussion about a much older conflict – the Civil War. He’ll talk with Mark Flotow, editor of “In Their Letters, in Their Words: Illinois Civil War Soldiers Write Home.”
A memorial flame honoring America’s military service branches will burn outside the museum on Nov. 10 and 11.
“President Lincoln wrote that we should give ‘honor to the soldier and the sailor everywhere who bears his country’s cause.’ The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is proud to do its small part in giving that honor,” said Melissa Coultas, the ALPLM’s acting executive director. “We hope those who have served their country will be able to visit us and that our online presentations will help educate everyone about sacrifices made by veterans.”
Any veteran who would like to take advantage of the free admission on Nov. 11, should call 217-558-8844 to make arrangements. When they arrive, they will have to present military identification.
Visitors will find the facility is meticulously cleaned and disinfected and has protective barriers in key places to ensure safety. All visitors must wear facial coverings and undergo a brief screening before entering.
The museum is spacious enough that visitors can easily stay one “Lincoln” apart – six feet, four inches, the equivalent of President Lincoln’s height. Visitation is currently capped at 375, a small percentage of the museum’s full capacity.
The discussion with Vince Speranza takes place on the ALPLM’s Facebook page beginning at 7 p.m. Central time. During the Battle of the Bulge, Speranza fought at Bastogne, where his actions inspired a Belgian beer decades later. In September, at 95, he took part in another parachute jump with the Army’s Golden Knights airborne team.
The next day’s Illinois History Forum about letters from Civil War soldiers also takes place on Facebook Live. It begins at noon Central time. The discussion will touch on a few of the many subjects Flotow’s book tackles, such as soldiers' reasons for enlisting, comments on Southern culture and slavery and descriptions of harsh conditions on the battlefield and in prison camps.
“I’m excited about both these online discussions,” said DePue. “Vince Speranza is a master storyteller, with amazing tales about how his life has been transformed since returning to the battlefield 65 years after the war. Meanwhile, Mark Flotow has compiled letters that provide amazing details about a war that most people know only in broad strokes, and he does so while bringing those soldiers to life.”
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in Lincoln’s life and times. The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history.