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Oregon Medal of Honor Highway & Cities

On July 14, 2016, the nonprofit Bend Heroes Foundation requested the Oregon legislature to honor Oregon’s 26 Medal of Honor recipients with a border to border “Oregon Medal of Honor Highway” on US Highway 20 and 12 cities designated as “Medal of Honor City/Community”. The honors will be accomplished by 12 signs installed by Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) along the 451 mile US 20 highway between Newport, OR and the OR/ID border near Nyssa, OR. Bend Heroes Foundation will install markers at each Medal of Honor City or Community. This project will be funded by donations to Bend Heroes Foundation.

Bend Heroes Foundation drafted and requested the legislation which became House Bill 2100 (Oregon Medal of Honor Highway) and House Concurrent Resolution 1 (Medal of Honor Community/City). Chief Sponsors of the legislation are Representative John Huffman, Representative Gene Whisnant, Representative Mike McLane, Senator Tim Knopp and Senator Betsy Johnson. Both measures were passed by unanimous vote by the Oregon House and Senate on June 5 and May 31 respectively. Governor Kate Brown signed HB 2100 into law on June 20 and again in a ceremonial setting in Bend
on October 20. The new highway law became effective on October 8.

The Medal of Honor Highway and City/Community signage project honors 26 recipients connected with Oregon (home of record, residence after receiving the Medal of Honor or burial) and who received the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for military valor during combat in 8 wars in 10 countries over 108 years from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. The legislation includes honoring future Medal of Honor recipients connected with Oregon.

To earn the Medal of Honor the recipient had to act with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty during combat and at the risk of one’s life while saving others. More than half of the nation’s recipients from WWI to the present lost their lives during their act of unselfish heroism.

This project compliments the “Oregon Medal of Honor Exhibit” created by the Foundation at Evergreen Air & Space Museum in McMinnville and the 5 veterans’ memorial highways signs project across Oregon also managed by Bend Heroes Foundation.

The 451 mile “Oregon Medal of Honor Highway” on US Highway 20 begins at Newport, Oregon, crosses 6 counties and ends at the Oregon/Idaho border at Nyssa, Oregon (attached map). It also intersects the 5 other Veterans highways on US 101, I-5, US 97, US 395 and I-84. We believe the “Oregon Medal of Honor Highway” and the “Medal of Honor City/Community” project is another first of a kind honor to veterans in our nation.

At 3,365 miles in length, US Highway 20 is the longest highway in our nation – begins in Newport, OR crosses 12 states and ends in Boston, MA. Fifty seven (57) percent of all 3,500 Medal of Honor awards made since 1862 (155 years ago) are accredited to those 12 states.

At least 12 states have created Medal of Honor highways, bridges etc. named for individual recipients. None honor all of a state’s recipients and are border to border in length. It is hoped that Oregon’s initiative will result in more Medal of Honor Highways and Cities in other states, especially on US Highway 20.

The 13 Medal of Honor Cities are: Agness, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, Hood River, Jordan Valley, Medford, Oakridge, Portland, Richland, Salem and The Dalles. All are incorporated except Agness (Community). Attached is a list of the 26 Oregon Medal of Honor recipients, their military service, wars and cities.

At 97 on October 26, WWII Army Medal of Honor recipient Mr. Robert D. “Bob” Maxwell of Bend is the “most senior” of the 73 (4 WWII and 69 post WWII) Medal of Honor recipients of all wars living in our nation today. Bob is a Director of Bend Heroes Foundation and treasured advisor for this unique project.

Prominent “Oregon Medal of Honor Highway” highway signs (see below) will be funded by Bend Heroes Foundation and installed by ODOT along US 20. Medal of Honor historic markers will also be funded by the Foundation and installed by ODOT at selected rest areas and turnouts along US 20 displaying the 3 Medal of Honor medals (Army, Navy/Marines/Coast Guard and Air Force), criteria for receiving the Medal of Honor award, names of all 26 recipients and their wars. A quick response (QR) code on the ADA accessible markers will allow viewers to download more detailed information from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society web site.

Two Oregon Medal of Honor Highway signs were unveiled between Bend and Sisters on October 26, Mr. Maxwell’s 97th birthday. The 3rd sign was unveiled by Mr. Maxwell, dignitaries and this writer in Newport, OR, the “Western Terminus of the Oregon Medal of Honor Highway” on Oct. 30. Three more signs will be installed by mid December.

The Medal of Honor City/Community marker program is also managed by the Foundation. A permanent marker at each city or community will include the name of the city, name of the recipient, image of the recipient’s Medal of Honor medal, Medal of Honor citation, name of war, and years of that war, donors names, legacy, dedication date and QR code and web site for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Bend Heroes Foundation and its project partners raised $70,200 to pay ODOT to fabricate and install 67 signs on 5
border to border veterans’ memorial highways on US 395 (WWI), US 97 (WWII), I-5 (Korea, Purple Heart Trail), I-84
(Vietnam) and US 101 (Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq). The Foundation initiated that project 9 years ago with the
Legislature to honor nearly one half million Oregon veterans who served, 6,022 who died and 15,000 who were wounded during 5 major wars over the last 100 years from WWI to the present.

The Foundation has enjoyed an outstanding relationship with ODOT HQ, Regions and District staffs over the last 9 years and is grateful that relationship will continue onward. We also thank the Oregon Legislature for eagerly supporting legislation we requested over the last 9 years honoring Oregon’s half million war veterans and Medal of Honor recipients with extensive memorial highways totaling over 2,500 miles across Oregon.

The Foundation is raising $37,000 to fund the new Oregon Medal of Honor Highway and Medal of Honor Cities/Communities project. Donations are tax deductible and can be made at www.bendheroes.org or by mail: 1900 NE 3rd St., Ste 106, #205, Bend, OR 97701.

Someone must speak for these 26 “Bravest of the Brave” heroes and that high honor and privilege has fallen to all of us.

Contact: Dick Tobiason, Chairman, Bend Heroes Foundation and Project Manager: dtobiason@bendcable.com, 541.390.9932

Website: www.Bendheroes.org

1900 NE 3 rd St., Ste 106 #205, Bend, OR 97701.

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