Honoring the fallen in Ohio


The Ohio Department of Transportation has a list of all of the roads and bridges named in memory of different Ohioans.

You can also check the list directly in Ohio Revised Code (Title 55, Chapter 5533). Either is worth a read before considering the following:

According to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, nearly 17,000 Ohioans were killed in action during World War II. According to the official state road list, only five of them have been honored by lawmakers with highways or bridges named in their memory.

More than 3,000 Ohioans died in Vietnam. Eight or nine have their names affixed in state law to highways or bridges — and most of those designations weren’t made until decades after the war.

The list goes on: 1,800-some Ohioans killed in action in Korea and around 7,000 in World War I, but none memorialized individually by state lawmakers on roads or bridges or exit ramps.

Recent conflicts

Flash forward to more recent military conflicts. According to the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, more than 260 Ohioans have been killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan or during the country’s fight against terrorism.

By my count, about 50 of them already have had roads or bridges or highway interchanges named in their memory by state lawmakers. That’s not including another 20-plus in legislation that is on its way to Gov. John Kasich’s desk for his expected signature.

Granted, there are Veterans bridges and Veterans highways and other memorials in place to honor the collective fallen, but it makes a different statement when individuals’ names are posted at roadside in the communities where they grew up, went to school and said their final goodbyes to family members and friends.

All of these military men and women deserve our respect. All deserve to have their names added to signs along roadways to remind the populace about the sacrifices they made for the rest of us.

Perhaps the naming of roads in honor of those killed in recent conflicts hits closer to the heart of younger Ohioans.

“We do these bills for a reason — to honor the fallen,” Sen. Bill Coley, a Republican from southwestern Ohio, said during the Senate discussion of the bill last week. “But we also do them for the living. We want to make sure that young people and all people ... when they look at names of memorial highways and they search and they find out the heroic deeds that these young men and women performed, it will be an inspiration to the living as well as a tribute to the fallen.”

But it’s too bad lawmakers didn’t think to do the same in years past in memory of those who died in the First and Second world wars, Korea and Vietnam.

And it’s a sad day when there are more roads in Ohio named after politicians and sports figures than for the thousands of Ohio men and women killed during big-name wars of the not-too-distant past.

Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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