The WWII Veterans Historic Highway
A new law resulting from Senate Bill 449 requires Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to install WORLD WAR II VETERANS HISTORIC HIGHWAY signs near former WWII training sites on US Highway 97 and SR 126. Funding will be provided by veterans, local governments, historical groups, and the public. The Bend based WORLD WAR II VETERANS HISTORIC HIGHWAY COMMITTEE requested the legislation.
The objectives of the new sign program are to honor WWII veterans and inform the traveling public about vital WWII training sites served by two major highways east of the Cascades: US 97 from the Columbia River to the Oregon/California border and State Route 126 from Redmond to Prineville. US 97 is known as The Dalles-California Highway. It is also designated a Blue Star Memorial Highway. Those names are not changed by the new “honorary” designation.
Quoting from Governor Kulongoski’s press release - “It (the highway) will be a living symbol of our state and our values and honor the service, sacrifice and dedication of Oregon World War II veterans……This designation honors the Band of Brothers – the trainers, the troops, and all the men and women involved in helping our nation prepare for battle during World War II,… And it honors the vital role of central Oregon and communities along U.S. 97 where during WW II military training sites were established, ensuring our soldiers were adequately prepared.”
Oregon’s New Veteran Memorial Highways
Oregon House Bill 2036 would establish 3 more border-to-border highways honoring Oregon’s veterans by wars:
The Korean War and Persian Gulf/Afghanistan/Iraq highways were selected as they include privately funded war memorials open to the public on or near the 2 highways. I-5 would also be designated a Purple Heart Trail honoring veterans who died or were wounded during all wars since WWI. It would provide the missing link between California’s and Washington’s Purple Heart Trails on Interstate 5. This would be the first Purple Heart Trail between our nation’s borders with Canada and Mexico.
The Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq Veterans Memorial would be the first of its kind in the nation. The 4 new highways would complement the already completed border to border WWII Veterans Historic Highway (US 97) and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway (I-84) where 34 prominent signs have been installed. See attached map of the 4 new and 2 existing veterans’ highways.
With HB 2036 enacted into law this Spring/Summer, all of Oregon’s veterans who served during 5 major wars over the last 98 years would be honored. This would include the 479,762 who served, the 6,025 who died, and the estimated 15,060 who were wounded. More than three quarters of Oregon’s 331,600 living veterans served during the 5 wars with veterans still deployed in Afghanistan. The honorific signs will be seen by veterans and their families as a meaningful honor by fellow Oregonians for their many decades of faithful service and sacrifice. The honors would be accomplished with prominent signs meeting ODOT standards installed along the highways beginning this summer.
The necessary funds to fabricate, install and maintain the signs would be raised by veterans groups as was the case for the WWII and Vietnam highway signs. ODOT would be allowed to enter into agreements with veterans groups and accept payments from them for installing signs. ODOT would not be allowed to use its own funds provided by tax payers. Attached is a map of the 4 new (red) and 2 existing (blue) border-to-border highways and photos of Oregon WWII and Vietnam veterans at WWII and Vietnam Veterans Highway signs. Signs on the 4 new highways could closely resemble those signs. Purple Heart Trail signs on Oregon’s I-5 would resemble those recently installed on Interstate 5 in Washington as shown in the attached photo. HB 2036 was requested by Vietnam War Veteran Dick Tobiason, Chairman, Bend Heroes Foundation who chairs this project. Iraq War veteran Rob Walker, Director, Bend Heroes Foundation is the Vice Chairman. Representatives from the American Legion, VFW, Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA) and Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) are committee members. The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Huffman who also championed legislation for the WWII and Vietnam Veterans Highways.
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