The display is striking.
Stand in the middle of the Eyes of Freedom Memorial Exhibit and you see life-size murals of the 23 Marines of Lima Company who were killed during combat in Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.
And among those images is a painting of 1995 Galion High School graduate Kendall Ivy, who was killed May 11, 2005, after a roadside bomb exploded and killed six.
And although Lima Company member Mike Strahle only met Ivy days before his death, Ivy’s actions will always live with him.
“(Kendall) replaced a leader who died,” said Strahle, who was on a truck with Ivy when the bomb detonated. He now works for the non-profit exhibit group. “And he did the coolest leadership thing I’ve ever seen. He didn’t let us continue until he got to know everyone in his company. He was known to a lot of people in the company. He was picked for a reason. He was the guy we needed at the moment to finish the job.”
During conversations with Ivy, Strahle said it was clear his hometown was very important to him.
“He talked about high school sports, his family and kids,” Strahle said. “(Kendall) was proudest of his family.”
The Eyes of Freedom Memorial Exhibit was designed by Columbus artist Anita Miller, who was touched by the number of fallen soldiers from central Ohio. Now, the murals can be seen during tour stops across the country.
The exhibit is in Galion this week and will be displayed in the high school gym through Thursday.
The foundation’s truck will be on display Friday night in Heise Park at Galion’s home football game.
“This is a special and unique opportunity for our school to host this amazing tribute to 23 brave individuals,” Galion High School Principal Ron Williams said. “It is my hope that the students, teachers and community spend time at this exhibit and leave with a greater appreciation for the sacrifices our military members and their families make every day.”
Ivy’s service and sacrifice is also remembered at the school in the high school cafetorium and in the Galion football team’s meeting room. The school also honored Ivy during a special jersey retirement ceremony Sept. 21, 2007.
“It is truly an honor for our district to have the opportunity to host an exhibit of this caliber,” Superintendent Mark Stefanik said. “Mr. Ivy’s sacrifice, along with his 22 comrades, is one example of the countless sacrifices our military service men and women make daily. I hope our community will take time to come out and show their respect for these 23 heroes.”
Strahle said the exhibit stirs the emotions of veterans who come see it.
One of them, Guido Lane, is a custodian at Galion High School. He served during Operation Enduring Freedom as an Air Force aircraft mechanic based in Turkey.
“This goes way above and beyond,” Lane said in appreciation.