COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – There are several events this week at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum leading up to Memorial Day.

The goal is to remember and honor those who died in service of our country.

The Eyes of Freedom exhibit opens Wednesday and will be on display through the holiday. The exhibit pays tribute to the 23 Ohio-based service members who fought and died together in Iraq in 2005.

One of the Marines who fought alongside those service members

The exhibit first debuted at the Ohio Statehouse in 2008; since then, it has traveled across the country making more than 300 stops. So, this is a homecoming and a debut at the museum in downtown Columbus.

Eight panels of life-size portraits and a pair of boots worn by each service member sit beneath them, now holding gifts and mementos from loved ones.

“The mission began by honoring these specific fallen from one company in Ohio,” said Marine veteran Mike Strahle, who fought alongside the 22 fallen Marines and one fallen Navy Corpsman depicted in the Eyes of Freedom exhibit.

The fallen veterans were all from the Ohio-based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 35th Marine regiment.

“We travel the country, using these men and their likeness to honor everyone, not just the fallen; anyone that’s ever donned a uniform,” Strahle said.

The Eyes of Freedom was originally supposed to make a stop at the museum for Memorial Day in 2020. But like so many events, the tribute to these fallen heroes was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andy Cloyd, Museum Director: “It’s been almost 20 years since that happened, so we still want to keep this story alive and keep their names honored and what better place to do it than here at the museum,” said museum director Andy Cloyd.

In 2018, the Eyes of Freedom exhibit added the Silent Battle sculpture to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder and advocate for veteran suicide prevention.

The exhibit offers visitors the chance to write a message on an empty dog tag and place it at the base of the Silent Battle soldier sculpture to honor a fallen service member or offer encouragement to a veteran battling PTSD.

For more information on all the events at the museum leading up to Memorial Day, click here.