The Lima Company Memorial totals eight separate paintings of 22 Marines and one Navy Corpsman. (Staff Photo: Chris Stephens)
SNELLVILLE — As Veterans Day approaches next week, the thought of “all gave some and some gave all,” comes to the forefront of many people’s thinking — especially former members of the military.
For the next two days, residents will have a chance to honor 23 of the fallen as The Eyes of Freedom exhibit is on display in the lobby of the Snellville Police Station today and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The exhibit honors 22 Marines and one Navy Corpsman of Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, who died in service to their country between May and August 2005. Most of those killed were from Columbus, Ohio. The eight panels depict painted images of each of the fallen and include a pair of each Marine’s boots below the display. The images were all painted by artist Anita Miller.
“We take this around the country to honor the service and sacrifice of all the nation’s military,” said Mike Strahle, who was injured in one of the improvised-explosive device attacks that took six of the Marines. “When the news hit, it rocked Central Ohio.”
Strahle said he now spends his time taking the memorial around the country, along with four other people, and is in awe of the number of people who come out to see it at each site.
“We have veterans from all conflicts who come to see the memorial,” he said. “They come in an look at my friends, but what they really see is their friends. The memories of their fallen comrades come back and it stirs a lot of emotion. This memorial isn’t meant to be something negative. It’s meant to bring healing.”
For Elmer Youngblood, who lives in Baxley, the feeling is all too real mainly because his son, Elmer, was the Navy Corpsman who lost his life.
“Each time I see this, it feels great,” he said. “I still miss my son every day, but I’m so glad he’s being honored in this way. I can remember coming home and he left a message on the answering machine telling me he joined the Navy.
“I don’t know where he got the idea to be a Corpsman. But that’s just like him. He was always wanting to help people.”
City Councilman Tom Witts said memorials like this are important because it gets people talking.
“A lot of times people don’t want to talk about what they experienced,” the Navy veteran said. “One reason we don’t talk about it is the guilt we have because we’re here to talk about it. We feel guilty because they’re not here to talk about it.”
Councilman Bobby Howard said it’s sombering to see the images and makes you think.
“We have so many men and women who fight for our freedoms,” he said. “As it gets to election time, I think of the number of people who don’t take advantage of their freedom to vote. Regardless of who they support, voting is one of the privileges our men and women in the armed forces die for.”
Councilman Dave Emmanuel, who helped organize bringing in the display, said it’s important to bring things like this into the community.
“Snellville needs to be a place where vets are honored,” he said. “That’s the least we can do for their sacrifices.”
Honoring the sacrifices of his friends and brothers in arms is something Strahle has made his mission in life.
“I think about them and their personalities,” he said. “Some were funny, some weren’t. But they all were great men. You look at the veterans who come in and look the display, and they get it. They know what it means to serve and what it means to sacrifice. Those two words, service and sacrifice, are what this memorial is all about.”
For more information on the Lima Company Memorial, go to limacompanymemorial.org.