Memorial to hard-hit Iraq Marines coming to town

It’s easy to see the fallen sons and brothers of any era in the life-sized paintings that make up the Lima Company Memorial of 25 Marines and one Navy corpsman killed in Iraq.

Mike Strahle sees his friends.

Strahle was a member of Lima Company during a 2005 deployment to Iraq, when the Columbus-based Marine Reserve unit lost 23 men in a seven-month period.

The 28-year-old Columbus resident is now director of the traveling memorial that will visit the terminal at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport on Saturday and Sunday.

“No matter what your opinion on the war, everyone seems to have a universally powerful reaction to the paintings,” Strahle said.

For a year now, Strahle has traveled from venue to venue with the memorial — something that has helped him make peace with what happened.

“It seems like the deployment was one big massacre,” he said.

In reality, he explained, it was “a very successful deployment with three very bad days.”

One of those bad days was May 11, 2005. Strahle was one of 14 Marines riding in an amphibious assault vehicle near the Syrian border when they were rocked by a roadside bomb.

Six were killed.

Strahle survived, but with widespread shrapnel wounds.

Another roadside bomb, on Aug. 3, 2005, killed another 14, he said.

The others were lost to small arms fire.

“We weren’t able to stop and mourn until the mission was done,” he said.

Back in Ohio, Westerville artist Anita Miller set out to memorialize the fallen Marines, later adding three additional Marines to the memorial called “The Eyes of Freedom.”

With many Lima Company Marines in attendance, the paintings made their public debut in 2008 at the Ohio Statehouse.

“The biggest compliment we can give to Anita is that they were so well done, we didn’t even get close to them,” Strahle said. “I don’t know if it was too soon.”

As he put it, “They might as well be standing right in front of you.”

Springfield resident Alan Banion, a Vietnam veteran, saw the memorial this year in Troy, and thought it would be good to display locally. Next year, the memorial heads to the U.S. Capitol.

“It struck home for us,” Banion said. “We had a nephew killed in Afghanistan three years ago.”

“It brings the reality of war back to you,” he added. “We’re so far away from it nowadays.”

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