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03-11-08, 04:37 AM
Colors of honor
Artist memorializes Lima Company's dead
Tuesday, March 11, 2008 3:16 AM
By Alan Johnson

It came in a vision to Westerville artist Anita Miller: a series of paintings in the Statehouse honoring the fallen servicemen of Lima Company.

She had neither the money nor the contacts in state government she needed, but dreams can move mountains.

And so, financed with a home-equity loan, Miller's vision will become reality on Memorial Day, when eight life-size canvases depicting 22 Marines and a Navy corpsman go on display. The exhibit will run through Veterans Day in the Statehouse rotunda.

The Lima Company Memorial: A Remembrance of Spirit & Choice has become more than paint on canvas. Family members are contributing pictures and stories about their husbands, sons and brothers. Some visit Miller's studio in Westerville just to hang out as the paintings progress.

The 8-foot-by-6-foot canvases will be arranged in an octagon, surrounding viewers as if they're in the company of those who lost their lives.

"The families of these men have been so open and generous with sharing their sons," Miller said. "They've been a huge inspiration to me. I have learned what it means to serve … and to be there to offer your life in service to your country.

"I kind of paint with them on my shoulder."

Miller, 48, who started painting 18 years ago, will get no state money for her work. She's received private donations, including $10,000 from the Mid-Ohio Marine Foundation.

The exhibit will appear elsewhere, starting with the Cincinnati Museum Center, she said.

Senate President Bill Harris, R-Ashland, a former Marine, said he became emotional when he previewed some of the paintings.

"I couldn't stand there without tears rolling down my cheeks," he said. "They were so realistic … that it made it feel like you were standing there ready to talk to one of those Marines or the Navy corpsman."

Harris and William E. Carleton, executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, said President Bush has been invited to the opening but has not committed.

Lima Company, a Rickenbacker-based Marine reserve unit, has suffered heavy losses in the Iraq war, including nine deaths near the Syrian border on Aug. 3, 2005.

Carole Hoffman, whose son, Sgt. Justin F. Hoffman, was among those nine, is writing profiles of each of the servicemen for a book that will be sold to cover costs of the exhibition.

By talking with parents, spouses and siblings, Mrs. Hoffman has gotten to know the 23 as boys, young men and warriors.

"It's a huge loss for my family and loss of our son," she said. "It's also very sweet in that they are being honored in this way. It's not just for them. It's a way of honoring all of our Marines as our heroes."

Lima Company Master Sgt. Stephen Walter said that when Miller approached him with the idea for a memorial, he flashed back to May 1968 when, as a young Marine, he returned home from a tour of duty in Vietnam.

"The best I got was indifference," he said.

He vowed that would not happen to the young men of Lima Company.

One of Walter's duties stateside was to make casualty calls to families. He witnessed firsthand the pain and anguish of grieving parents. He thinks Miller's paintings can have a healing effect.

"Their sense of loss is irredeemable, irretrievable and irrevocable. Anything we can do to bridge that gap is welcome. Her paintings permit the relatives and those of us who knew them only slightly or didn't know them to make a connection."

More information about the memorial can be found at www.limacompanymemorial. org. Details about Anita Miller and her work are at www.theartistsroost.com.


"I kind of paint with them on my shoulder."
Anita Miller
artist creating the Lima Company memorial