Wounded veterans from the nation's wars got an unexpected bonus Thursday
— a stretch of interstate highway to call their own.
The road is Interstate 20, from its junction with
Interstate 49 in Shreveport to
its meeting with Interstate 220 in Bossier City.
And at each spot, white-on-green signs could be seen denoting the Purple
Heart Recipients Highway.
Dignitaries, wounded veterans from
World War II, Korea and
Vietnam and representatives
of Barksdale Air Force Base gathered at the Bossier-Caddo
Veterans Memorial to make the dedication.
Richard Garner, commander of Chapter
351 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, led ceremonies with state Rep. Jane Smith, whom he approached to help get the
name designation through the Louisiana Legislature.
"These are the men and women who
have stood in harm's way through past wars and in wars that are happening today," Garner told a crowd that included retired
Army Maj. Ron Chatelain, the state's most-decorated soldier with five Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross, among
"The Purple Heart is certainly not a medal any of these guys cherished;
they did not want that medal. But after they receive that medal, they become a member of a band of brothers and sisters who
share one thing in common: They know that freedom isn't free."
Most of the dozen or
so wounded veterans, wearing campaign hats showing them to be members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, were from
the nation's past wars.
One was Willie Curry, who served in the Army until he was wounded
in the Vietnam War.
"I think this is a great idea, and long overdue. It should be done
One wounded veteran from the war on terror would have been there, but
he's recuperating at home the next few weeks before he returns to an Army hospital in Texas.
Army Spc. Ryan
Holley, part of the 2nd Stryker Brigade, was shot in the side Sept. 4 in Iraq. He was represented
Thursday by his parents, Mark and Cheri Holley.
"He's got three
more years left in his commitment," Mark Holley said of his son, a 2005 graduate of Evangel Christian Academy. "He's
determined to go back to Iraq."
The Shreveport sign is near where traffic enters I-20 from
Linwood Avenue, near the I-49 interchange,
while the Bossier City sign is just west
of the I-220 interchange, said state Department of Transportation and
Development representative Keith Tindell.
"We did it like that because of the ramps,
so people coming onto I-220 would also know the highway designation, to maximize the number of people seeing it," Tindell
Glover, Jane, Richard, Eames and Larrieau
Richard Garner and James Eames
Jane and Richard
Larreiau, Richard, James, Mickey and Mike
Lunsfords and Ken Bourgeois w/ Ladies Auxiliary
Mickey, Ron, Jane and Richard
Richard, Jane and Mayors Walker and Glover