COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Eyes of Freedom. They will never grow old, and these young men will never come home.
Corporal Mike Strahle and Sean Flaherty travel the country sharing the story of Ohio’s Lima Company with tens of thousands of people each year.
“Ten years later to bring it back home, it’s pretty special,” Strahle said.
Their portraits were carefully carried into the Statehouse Rotunda, lovingly erected in the space where they were first displayed in 2008.
At the base of each portrait are the boots of the men who died for their country.
“I think that’s the gut punch that makes it personal when people are seeing the tribute for the first time,” Strahle said.
Artist Anita Miller is unveiling a new addition to her collection: “Silent Battle,” a statue modeled after a Minnesota veteran with PTSD. That veteran contemplated suicide until he experienced the Eyes of Freedom exhibit.
“He was struggling in every way imaginable, just like many of our returning veterans are,” Strahle said.
“We saved his life, and having him make such a profound turnaround, he’s involved with all sorts of veteran’s organizations in northern Minnesota now. He’s leading by example now.”
Other veterans left dog tags behind with messages of thanks and hope.
For some, the exhibit is life-changing. For them, it is life-affirming. For all of us, they want it to be the source of pride.
“We know without a shadow of a doubt that they’re going to have a stronger appreciation for the military even if it’s something like they have the courage to go up and say “thank you” to a veteran who’s in the same restaurant as them,” Flaherty says. “Those are the things – those little things – that make changes in veterans’ lives.”
Click here for more information about how to visit the Eyes Of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial.