‘Eyes of Freedom’ coming to BHS

Published 4:08 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Cpl. David “Bear” Stewart was killed in action in Iraq on August 3, 2005, but his memory lives on not only in Washington Parish, but also around the nation.

A traveling exhibit that includes the local hero who graduated from Bogalusa High School will pay a visit to the school from Friday through Sunday, and the public is invited.

“The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial” depicts the fallen of the Ohio-based Lima Company 3/25, one of the most heavily engaged units of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 23 life-sized portraits have become a powerful traveling military tribute to all who answer this nation’s call to service.

“We are very excited to bring this powerful tribute to Bogalusa High School, alma mater of fallen Marine Corporal ‘Bear’ Stewart, whose image proudly travels with The Eyes of Freedom,” said Mike Strahle, director of The Eyes of Freedom and a member of the Lima Company (he served along with the men honored in the life-size paintings). “We are proud to invite everyone to honor the men and women that serve in our great military. We are honored to be spending this Veterans Day with the friends, family, fellow Marines of Bear Stewart — it has been a long time coming.”

Artist and creator of the exhibit Anita Miller added, “The main reason for creating The Eyes of Freedom was to heal family members and loved ones after suffering such loss in 2005, and now it travels as part of a much larger mission.”

Miller worked with family and Lima Company Marines to paint this tribute — a project that took her two and a half years to complete.

Strahle retired from Lima Company 3/25, and saw The Eyes of Freedom unveiled at the Ohio Statehouse in 2008. Three years later he contacted Miller, requesting to host the memorial at a veterans’ support fundraiser he co-founded. It was this reunion that sparked the passing of the baton from its creator to the hands of a brother in arms.

For Strahle, this mission is personal. He also was badly injured in the explosion that took six of his squad members. Two more fell to enemy fire just days prior.

The exhibit is scheduled to open to the public in the BHS gym, at 2 p.m. on Friday with a Veterans Program. It will also be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, with a flag presentation at 6 p.m.