INTERSTATE 64, W. Va. — This might be one of the most beautiful stretches of interstate highway in the United States of America.
It reminds me of driving through Bavaria in southern Germany, which my wife and I were able to do this past September. Lush mountains tower over the roadway, which crosses many substantial rivers.
But I noticed something while blazing along the highway through West Virginia and neighboring Virginia that I want to mention here.
Many miles of interstate highway in both states — as well as in Tennessee and Kentucky — are named in memory of individuals. All of the signs we noticed identified the honorees as males. Many of the signs contained ranks next to the names: sergeant, deputy, sergeant major, trooper, officer, lieutenant, captain, Medal of Honor recipient, etc. You get the idea, right?
I was struck also by the belief that each of those names has a story. The “memorial bridge” or “memorial highway” is named in honor of someone who likely died in the line of duty or in service to the country.
The question I posed to my wife was this: Why not erect plaques near the sign identifying the right-of-way that tells us the story behind the name?
I’m not necessarily interested in knowing the details of how the individual died. But they have a story of their public service that might be interested in telling.
Who would stop and read such signage? I might.
Indeed, I once wrote a story for NewsChannel 10.com about the vast array of historical markers scattered throughout Texas and I interviewed a fellow named Michael Grauer, who is an official with the Panhandle/Plains Historical Museum in Canyon. Grauer identified himself as an avid “historical marker reader.” He said whenever it’s remotely possible he’ll stop while traveling and read about a marker that commemorates a historical event that happened near where it’s posted along a Texas highway.
I doubt anyone in authority in these states that honor the individuals will take this suggestion seriously. There might not be money in states’ budgets to pay for plaques telling the honorees’ stories. Location might be an issue.
As we continue to wind our way across the country, though, ideas like this seem worth the effort to pass along.