‘The Eyes of Freedom’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ROCKWELL — “The Eyes of Freedom” traveling exhibit, dedicated to the men and women who have served, fought and died for the United States in every branch of the armed forces, will make a two-day stop in Rowan County in early October.
Powles Funeral Home of Rockwell is sponsor for the exhibit, which will be open to the public at no charge the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 6, and the morning and afternoon of Monday, Oct. 7.
Rockwell will be one of only two stops of the exhibit in the state of North Carolina.
“It’s a very moving experience to see,” said Doug Bare, a funeral director at Powles. “It’s so lifelike it’s unbelievable. It really shows the sacrifice those guys gave.”
Bare and Russ Roakes, another funeral director at Powles, are encouraging individuals, veterans and groups from churches, schools and civic clubs to attend the self-guided exhibit.
“It’s an amazing event to come and see,” Roakes said.
The Eyes of Freedom consists of eight large panels and life-sized portraits of 22 Marines and a Navy corpsman who belonged to the Lima Company of Ohio, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment.
They lost their lives during the war in Iraq in actions between May and September 2005. Lima Company, based out of Columbus, Ohio, was a rifle company comprised mainly of young Marine Reservists, who had been called to active duty in January 2005.
The losses in Lima Company hit residents of Columbus and Ohio hard. Artist Anita Miller, working with the surviving families, painted the panels, which were unveiled in the Columbus statehouse in 2008 and remained there for six months.
Miller has said she awoke in the middle of the night, not long after a roadside explosion in Iraq killed 14 members of the Lima Company, with a vision for the exhibit and its standing in the statehouse rotunda.
Miller worked on the paintings for two-and-a-half years, and a non-profit organization, the Lima Company Memorial, was created to support her work.
After the display at the Ohio statehouse, the paintings went on a tour of other museums and events. The Eyes of Freedom now travels the country, transported in a tractor-trailer furnished by R+L Carriers of Wilmington
Mike Strahle, a Marine who fought alongside the men of Lima Company, has taken over from Miller in overseeing the exhibit.
“Everyone’s welcome,” Bare stressed of the two days in October.
An opening ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 6 and will include the Rowan County Veterans Honor Guard.
The Eyes of Freedom then will be open from 2-7 p.m. Oct. 6; from 9 a.m.-noon Oct. 7; and 2-7 p.m. Oct. 7.
Patriot Guard Riders will meet the tractor-trailer carrying the exhibit’s panel at the Salisbury Mall the morning of Oct. 6 and escort the memorial from there to Rockwell.
Roakes said the escort plans to leave the mall parking lot at 10:30 a.m., proceed down Statesville Boulevard and pass through the heart of downtown Salisbury on it way to Rockwell, in case anyone wanted to see the procession that morning.
The exhibit’s panels measure 6-by-9 feet.
Weathering permitting, the opening ceremony will be held outside, but the exhibit itself will be in the funeral home’s chapel.
While The Eyes of Freedom depicts the fallen of Lima Company, it is meant to honor all the people who have answered the call to service in the military.
“We’re proud to bring this to Rockwell,” Roakes said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.