In April 2013, the Oregon Legislature enacted Senate Bill 461 to redesignate the interstate through Oregon as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway in honor of the 57,000 Oregonians who served in the war. The signs will soon be up along a 370-mile stretch of freeway, from the junction of Interstate 205 in Portland to the Idaho border.
“It’s an honor to be recognized after this many years,” said John Craig, American Legion Post Commander in La Grande. “I’m proud it’s coming to fruition.”
The responsibility of raising the funds to purchase and maintain the signs is in the hands of the local veterans and communities where the signs will be placed. A single sign costs $1,000. Local vets are vying for an additional sign that will cost a little bit extra for a total of $1,200.
Local Vietnam veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion groups are teaming up to raise money to purchase two of the brown signs with white letters to place at the Union County borders with Baker County westbound and Umatilla County eastbound.
“We’ve come together,” Lonnie Myers, former post commander of the La Grande American Legion, said. “We have one objective and that’s to take care of the veterans.”
Signs honoring Vietnam vets have already been posted on the western side of the state, including a Memorial Day ceremony in The Dalles. Signs will be posted approximately every 53 miles through the state. Originally, there were 15 signs planned to go up across the state once the funds were raised by the respective veteran groups. However, some groups, like the ones in Union County, want to raise more money to purchase additional signs.
“More than 700 Oregonians were killed in action, 5,000 wounded and 39 missing from the war,” Myers said. “There are 122,000 veterans living in Oregon today, and more than 800 Vietnam vets living in Union County.”
For the complete story, see Wednesday's edition of The Observer.