CIRCLEVILLE — Monday night the Eyes of Freedom will arrive with much fanfare but the organization’s attention will be on honoring an additional person this year, the late Linda Ballou, who helped organize their visit to town each year.
The Eyes of Freedom is a traveling memorial of several paintings of soldiers from the Lima Company who died during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lima company was one of the hardest-hit units of the operation, as 23 members of the company were killed in combat.
The memorial will be housed inside Memorial Hall with access through the door on South Pickaway Street.
The escort plans to leave Scioto Downs at 6 p.m. and will arrive in Circleville approximately a short time after that.
Mike Strahle, executive director for the Eyes of Freedom, said it was great to be back in Circleville, and they’re planning on honoring both Linda Ballou who died last month and Terry Sloan who died ahead of their visit in 2021. Both were instrumental in bringing the Eyes of Freedom to Circleville for the Pumpkin Show.
“It was just tragic to hear of Linda and her passing recently,” Strahle said. “We visited her two weeks before she passed. To be able to spend some time with her and when she saw us she perked right up. She wanted to make sure we got connected with Pumpkin Show and it was a really powerful half hour we spent with her.”
Strahle said they plan to honor her during their unloading process and set up Monday night as part of the excitement the escort brings to town.
A motorcade will bring the memorial to town as their special trailer and truck, sponsored by RNL Carriers, was last in line of the motorcycles, jeeps and other vehicles that escorted the memorial to Circleville.
“We’ve got one heck of an escort building,” Strahle said. “It’s been seven years and counting now. That escort from Scioto Downs just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Just from the Facebook traffic we’ve seen online it’ll be the biggest one yet.”
Strahle said they’re so glad to be welcomed back this year, as in 2021 enough funds were raised for a two-year sponsorship.
“We want to continue to be of help to veterans or their families that are struggling,” Strahle, who is a veteran, said while sharing the mission of the memorial.
“The families have to not only keep us afloat when we’re deployed, but they’re the shoulder to lean on when we get home. It falls back to the families often and it shows [Silent Battle Creator Anita Miller’s] original vision of wanting to help heal families and that whole idea has remained throughout.”
Strahle, who said Pumpkin Show is one of the bigger events they do each year, said they’re hoping to see some new faces this year as well.
“We want to get many more new eyes on it, we’ve got ground to make up for that,” he said. “We’re glad to be back and welcomed into town so much.”
Strahle said it was small towns that have really supported and kept them in their mission through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s the small towns like Circleville that have been the ones to restart the engines for us this year with the patriotic energy,” he said. “A lot of our highlights have very much been in small town America and we’re appreciative of it.”
Strahle said they’re looking forward to continuing the tradition next year.
“It’s our intent to keep coming back each year,” he said.