In front of a modest sized group of veterans, their families, and other visitors, Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware, who also is an active duty Naval Chief Petty Officer, presented a somewhat unique – or at least different – take on honoring veterans at a time when the country seems greatly divided politically.
Ware encouraged debate and discussion. He said just because you disagree with someone is no reason to dislike that someone. He said the United States is a diverse culture.
“But we are commonly bonded by the United States of America and the flag that represents it,” Ware said. He said those previously mentioned debates and discussions are the best way to honor veterans who fought to ensure U.S. citizens have the freedom to disagree.
Ware was speaking at the 25th annual Shawnee State University Veterans Recognition Day held Thursday, Nov. 7. The highlight of the event probably was set up in the lobby of SSU’s University Center. The Eyes of Freedom is a traveling war memorial honoring 22 Marines and one Navy Corpsman who gave all as members of Lima Company, Third Battalion, 25th Regiment, Marine Reserve Unit.
Speaking to the Daily Times prior to the formal SSU event, Eyes of Freedom Executive Director and member of the Lima Company, Corp. Mike Strahale said there were units serving in Iraq who took greater casualties than Lima Company but he also said during their deployment, no reserve group saw as much intense fighting as his.
While their deployment lasted eight months, in only four months of 2005, Lima Company suffered their 23 casualties. Strahale later told the crowd in the SSU ballroom 17 of the casualties were caused by two roadside bombs. In the early days of the wars in the Middle East, Strahale said the U.S. was not very good at protecting its military against such weapons.
“For the first time in a long time,” Strahale said, “the U.S. military was behind the curve.”
Strahale noted several times many of the fallen were Ohio natives as is Strahale himself. The portraits making up the memorial were created by Ohio artist Anita Miller and unveiled at the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda in 2008. Strahale said he has traveled around the country with the display ever since.
In 2018, Eyes of Freedom received a major addition in the form of a bronze sculpture, entitled “Silent Battle,” also created by Miller. Strahale talked about it being in honor of veterans who suffer from PTSD and other mental struggles. He hopes its message can help counteract what he calls an epidemic of suicide among Middle East vets. A plaque on the sculpture reads: “Honoring those who fight the hidden wounds of war.”
Sitting in the center of the half circle of portraits, the silent soldier’s podium is covered with dog tags, many of which were left by veterans, according to Strahale. Some have names, many say, “Thank You.” Strahale said veterans who take a particular liking to a dog tag are free to help themselves and many have done so. He did not know if that had happened during the SSU presentation.
Other speakers at the event included SSU President Jeff Bauer and Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis, who gave the invocation. Colors and taps were presented by American Legion post 471. The Portsmouth West High School Choir sang the national anthem and later performed a cantata.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.