Eyes of Freedom tribute coming to Barnesville

Special to the Enterprise

The Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce has announced that the nationally-traveling Eyes of Freedom tribute will be coming to the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival, Sept. 23-26.

This traveling memorial depicts the fallen Marines and Navy Corpsman of Columbus, based Lima Company 3/25, one of the most heavily engaged units of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These 23 life-sized portraits have become a powerful traveling military tribute "Honoring ALL Who Answer Our Nation’s Call; Then, Now, and Tomorrow." These eyes reflect the hundreds of thousands of men and women that have sacrificed defending our freedom. Visit www.EyesofFreedom.org 

The tribute will take place at Barnesville Middle School, 970 Shamrock Drive, Barnesville. 

A motorcycle escort arrival and installation are planned for 7 p.m. Sept. 22. 

The public exhibit will be open Sept. 23-25 from noon to 8 p.m., and Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also, at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26, an "event flag" will be presented. 

The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial was created as a result of an Ohio artist’s vision, in which she saw the finished memorial and felt she was being asked to create it. With the help of the families of the fallen and the returned Marines of Lima Co 3/25, the work was created and unveiled in the Ohio State House Rotunda in 2008, as the vision foretold.

Although the paintings in this Memorial specifically depict 23 fallen Marines, it has become much more. The mission of the nonprofit, Eyes of Freedom is to honor the service and sacrifice of all who answer our nation’s call. Behind each portrait one feels the spirit of the thousands of men and women who have served our country, in every branch of the armed forces, not forgetting the returning veterans coming home to us. In 2018 the tribute expanded to include artist Anita’s newest creation: a life-sized bronzed sculpture of a serviceman seated with head down, his face depicting emotions of the internal Silent Battle, as the touchable work is aptly named. He represents our nation’s veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress and thoughts of suicide, as they navigate life after combat. This powerful sculpture brings awareness, hope, and healing to all who come in contact.

This traveling tribute is supported by a board of directors and a two-man touring team, each with a personal connection to the men in the paintings. Mike Strahle is a purple heart combat vet who fought alongside these men and was badly injured in one of the attacks. Sean Flaharty was a personal friend of fallen Marine Justin Hoffman and helped support Anita as a volunteer for years before becoming part of the touring team. Both Mike and Sean offer personal insight into the history and experience of this powerful memorial.