Merced College is proud to host “Eyes of Freedom,” a traveling memorial dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of all military veterans, from April 28 to May 1 at the Merced College Theater.
Eyes of Freedom is a series of life-sized paintings honoring members of the Lima Company 3rd Battalion 25th Marines. In the spring of 2005, Lima Company was deployed to Iraq. Twenty-two Marines and one Navy Corpsman—all hailing from the central Ohio area—were killed in action between May and August of that year.
The exhibit is organized by the 1st Lt. Peter J. Gallo Veterans Resource Center, which provides counseling services and other Veterans Affairs educational resources for Merced College students who are veterans or direct family members of veterans. Admission is free, and the exhibit will be open to the public in the Merced College Theater from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 28 through May 1.
Dustin Thompson, Student Services Coordinator for the Veterans Resource Center, viewed the Eyes of Freedom display in other locations and thought it would be a meaningful experience for those in the Merced College community and the greater Merced community.
“What always strikes me the most about this memorial is the raw emotion that is captured,” Thompson said. “When I look at each painting, I can’t help but feel a profound sense of gratitude for their service, and a deep sadness for all they had to give up in order to protect our freedom.”
The news of the Lima Company losses hit central Ohio hard, prompting spontaneous expressions of compassion for the families of the fallen and the surviving Marines. Anita Miller—a Columbus, Ohio, artist who had no prior connection to the Marines—was inspired to create a series of life-sized paintings, each with a pair of empty boots to carry messages from those viewing the display, that could then travel to different locations across the country.
After meeting and working with the families of the fallen, Miller created the Lima Company Memorial, which was unveiled in the Ohio Statehouse and was displayed for six months before it began touring the country. Later renamed “Eyes of Freedom,” the display has now appeared in more than 330 events in 32 states.