On Nov. 9, just two days before Veterans Day 2015 and under sunny skies at the Harney County Court House in Burns, Ore., the 383-mile U.S. Highway 395 in Oregon was dedicated as the "World War I Veterans Memorial Highway." This newest Veterans Memorial Highway in Oregon honors the 44,200 Oregonians who served, the 1,100 who died and the 1,800 who were wounded during World War I (1917-1918) also known as the “Great War.” There are no World War I veterans living anywhere in the world today.
Two signs (4 ft. high and 8 ft. wide) were funded by Mary Jane Tobiason, daughter of World War I Army veteran Arthur H. Moody, Burns American Legion Post 63, Burns Band of Brothers and Burns Elk Lodge #1680. The signs were fabricated by the Oregon Department of Transportation and unveiled by Tobiason, Ronald Copeland and Ronald Estep. Moody was a past commander of American Legion Post 179 in Grandville, Mich. His daughter is a member of Stevens-Chute Auxiliary Unit 4 in Bend. Three WWI re-enactors provided a superb backdrop for the dedication, attended by 50 patriots.
Navy veteran Copeland, commander of Post 63 and president of Burns Band of Brothers, informed the audience on the founding of The American Legion in 1919 after the end of World War I. Army veteran Estep, representing Burns Elks Lodge #1680, related how the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (“Elks”) have honored veterans since 1917 when the Elks built two field hospitals in France during World War I. Harney County Veterans Service Officer Guy McKay read the names of the 42 World War I dead from the four counties traversed by the new highway. A Band of Brothers bell was struck after the reading of each name.
Army veteran Dick Tobiason, chairman of the Bend Heroes Foundation, historian for American Legion Post 4 in Bend and Oregon "Legionnaire of the Year 2013-2014" was the emcee and provided insight into the causes and results of World War I. He also summarized the six border-to-border veterans highway signs program in Oregon honoring 480,000 Oregonians who served during five major wars since World War I. He drafted legislation and oversaw the installation of 35 World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway signs on US 97 and I-84. He is now managing the installation of 32 more veterans memorial highway signs on the four new veterans highways. Eight more "World War I Veterans Memorial Highway" signs will be installed on U.S. 395 near Lakeview, John Day, Pendleton and Umatilla.
Sen. Ted Ferrioli and Charlie Schmidt, American Legion National Executive Committeeman, were the closing speakers and thanked all for creating the new "World War I Veterans Memorial Highway."
The first two of 10 "World War I Veterans Memorial Highway" signs were installed on Nov. 10 on U.S. 395 east of Burns and south of Riley. A combined "Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway/Purple Heart Trail" sign on Interstate 5 was also installed just in time for Veterans Day. Installation of 10 “Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial Highway” signs on U.S. 101 on the Oregon coast begins in early December. The six veterans highways total 2,040 miles in length between Oregon's borders with Washington, California and Idaho, and are paid for by tax-deductible donations to the nonprofit Bend Heroes Foundation: www.bendheroes.org.
The foundation is very proud of the support of its proposals for legislation for the six veterans’ memorial highways by the Oregon departments of The American Legion, VFW, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Oregon legislature and the governor.
As Gen. John Pershing, Commanding General of the American Expeditionary Forces, said when dedicating a World War I national cemetery in France, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”