By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer
FORT GIBSON — A measure in the state Legislature to rename the Teddy Lehman Expressway in Fort Gibson is moving along well, officials said.
Once the measure is signed into law — and supporters say there is no doubt it will be — the two-mile stretch of U.S. 62 within Fort Gibson will be named “Veterans Memorial Highway.”
However, the state will not provide funding for new signs.
So William Boyd, a Vietnam War veteran, is asking veterans groups and others to gather donations to pay for two signs, which he said would cost about $1,300.
Any excess donations will go toward maintenance of American Legion Post #20’s Trail of Honor, a path of full-size U.S. flags that line the streets to Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
Boyd said the change to honor veterans is especially meant for the families who stayed behind.
“My wife stayed home, and our first child was born while I was in Vietnam,” Boyd said. “The price that women especially have paid waiting on us should not be forgotten. I think for all family members of veterans who stayed home and kept the home fires burning, the name of that road will forever give them comfort.”
The legislation, House Bill 1759, is on the Senate calendar for a vote this week. The bill includes several road name changes, but it was amended, so it will have to go back to the House for another vote before it goes to Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature, legislative documents show.
Boyd said he wants to be ready to place the signs when the deal is completed.
“We have 600 funerals or more a year here, and we want to get them up as soon as possible,” he said.
Fort Gibson’s Board of Trustees and Teddy Lehman himself have offered their support for the name change.
The board also voted Monday to give an honorary name as well to the portion of Wiley Road from U.S. 62 to the cemetery. That name could be “Honor Road,” and signs to that effect will be added to the current sign posts — with no address change for those who live along the route.
Boyd said he was delighted with all the support from the town and the legislators.
“It’s important that the highway be renamed, because it’s the last road that our brothers and sisters take to their final resting place,” he said. “It’s important to their loved ones and their families for that honor to be in place.”
Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help
To make a donation for new highway signs for U.S. 62 on the route to the National Cemetery to honor veterans, call American Legion Post #20 Commander Tim Smith at (918) 577-8738 or send a check made out to “Veterans Memorial Highway” to the American Legion Post, P.O. Box 1401, Fort Gibson OK 74434. (All donations exceeding the cost of the signs will go toward maintenance and upkeep of the post’s Trail of Honor to Fort Gibson National Cemetery.)