A portion of Interstate 65 in the center of the state is to be dedicated as the War on Terror Memorial Highway, to honor Alabamians who have died in the War on Terror.
Two signs will mark the memorial stretch between mile markers 207 and 214 along part of I-65 that runs through Chilton County. One will be on the highway’s northbound side; the other will be on the southbound side.
The project was authorized by a resolution passed during the Alabama legislature’s 2014 regular session.
Alabama Gold Star Families, a nonprofit group headed by a Hoover resident whose son died while serving in Iraq, raised the $3,500 required to pay the Alabama Department of Transportation to make the signs and put them in place.
“It’s something we’ve wanted for some time,” said Gold Star Families president Marynell Winslow. Winslow said one of the memorial signs should be in place by May 24. She said the other sign will be unveiled during a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. May 24 on the lawn at the Chilton County Courthouse in Clanton.
The chief sponsors of the resolution for the signs were Reps. Kurt Wallace (R-Maplesville) and Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood). As introduced, the resolution stated “it is both appropriate and desirable to honor this group of individuals who have made the lives of their fellow citizens better and have brought honor and respect to the state and nation through their service and sacrifice.”
According to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, 134 men and women with Alabama ties have died in the terror war since 9/11. One of them is Marynell Winslow’s 19-year-old son, Marine Lance Cpl. Ryan Winslow, who was killed by a bomb in Iraq in April 2006.
Alabama Gold Star Families first organized in 2007, and is now a nonprofit based in Jefferson County. The organization has successfully pushed for a state Gold Star Families license plate and has been supportive of families who have lost loved ones during the terror war. Currently the group is raising funds for a War on Terror memorial to be placed at the American Village north of Montevallo in Shelby County, next to the Alabama National Cemetery for veterans.
Tony Harris, a spokesman for ALDOT, was in Birmingham this week to get the $3,500 check from Winslow for the I-65 signs. “They’re ready to be delivered,” Harris said.
Under a 1979 state law, a group that seeks to have a sign placed along a highway must pay for the sign once the legislature passes a non-binding resolution approving the project and the governor signs the document, Harris said.
A number of thoroughfares around the state bear the names of Alabamians who have died in the terror war. In 2002, all of I-65 in Alabama was proclaimed “Heroes Highway,” in honor of CIA agent Mike Spann. A native of Winfield in northwest Alabama, Spann was the first American to be killed in action, on Nov. 25, 2001, during U.S. operations in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.