by Leah Davis of AFSC’s program in Northeast Ohio

A few months ago, I received a call from an American Gold Star Mother from Cincinnati, Ohio, inquiring about the Eyes Wide Open exhibit that has toured Ohio. I soon realized that she was not only an AGS mother, but also the president of the Ohio chapter. Rebecca Frank, who lost her son Captain Warren A. Frank in Iraq in November of 2008, shared with me her interest in showing the exhibit in Cincinnati over Memorial Day weekend. We talked for a while, and I told Rebecca that we had decided to disband the exhibit and that we were looking for a permanent home.

Throughout the tenure of Eyes Wide Open Ohio and its 274 pairs of combat boots of fallen U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, we had several American Gold Star Mothers come speak at our events and come to support the exhibit and the meaning behind it. The nonprofit organization formed in 1928 to provide support to the fellow mothers of service men and women lost in war. Though it is supportive of the military, Rebecca made it clear to me that she wanted to show the total side of war.

We talked about the importance of all of the lives lost—both military and civilian—and how the pain to a mother who has lost their child to war is all the same.

After discussing the exhibit, its meaning, and the need to find a permanent home, Rebecca asked if they could take it permanently. Never had I thought we would be re-homing Eyes Wide Open with the American Gold Star Mothers, but it made perfect sense—and even more so now, as Memorial Day Weekend approaches. 

Eyes Wide Open will be displayed this Memorial Day Weekend in the Cincinnati area along with a few other memorial exhibits sponsored by the Southwest Ohio chapter of American Gold Star Mothers. The event takes place at the Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting and its grounds in West Chester Township. 

The reason behind this event, Rebecca stated, was, “ to get back to the true meaning of Memorial Day.” AGS Mothers want to have an event that reminds people that Memorial Day is about remembering lives lost, that war is extremely costly, that families never truly recover from those losses, and that we should be teaching our children that Memorial Day is something more than just a day off from school or work, or about cookouts and corn hole games.

We are proud to know that Eyes Wide Open here in Ohio in now in the possession of AGS and that the exhibit will continue to be a way to create positive dialogue and healing to many more down the road.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, I will be travelling to Cincinnati to remember, to reflect and to meditate on the true meaning of Memorial Day, and to wish that peace be to the souls lost and to their families.