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Dedication ceremony

Oldham’s Hwy. 329 renamed
the ‘Veterans Memorial Parkway’

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer


CRESTWOOD, Ky. (April 2005) – When not in the midst of a war, Americans tend to forget those brave service men and women who fought so hard to keep the land that we love free. They gave their lives for us, and we, in turn, owe them ours.

Veterans Ceramony

Photos by Helen E. McKinney

City officials and military personnel, including Robley Rex (below), attended
the March 21 renaming ceremony.

That’s the message that Don Helton believes. The Oldham County resident was determined that veterans of all wars should not be forgotten. He was instrumental in erecting a memorial for veterans by renaming the Hwy. 329 bypass from Hwy. 22 to Interstate 71 in Crestwood as the Veterans Memorial Parkway. This memorial will be a daily reminder of those who have sacrificed everything for the good of their country, he said.
Helton began his quest six years ago. He initiated the project, but as an individual, he was not successful in his endeavor. He gained the support of the American Legion and then sought the approval of Oldham County Fiscal Court. Judge-Executive Mary Ellen Kinser also backed Helton in his quest to seek local and state approval.
Program organizer for the American Legion Post 39, Helton said the Hwy. 329 bypass was chosen for its visibility. “It is a wide, open area,” and was “perfect for it,” he said.
The bypass renaming was unveiled at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, March 21. Area school children, many military personnel and such local dignitaries as Magistrate Duane Murner and former Judge-Executive John Black attended the hour-long ceremony.
Many turned out to pay their respects to veterans and witness history in the making. One highlight of the dedication ceremony was the attendance of Robley Rex, the sole surviving World War I veteran living in Kentucky. Rex volunteers weekly at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Louisville and will soon turn 104 years old.
Rex is a living example of what it means to have a sense of duty. The Okolona, Ky., resident gave an opening prayer for the ceremony. That was followed by short speeches from many veterans who spoke of their life of service. Rex is one of the 84,000 men and women Kentucky sent to serve in World War I.

Verteran Robley Rex

Veteran Robley Rex

Brig. Gen. Elmus S. Ussery, USAR, said, “Young adults don’t know our own history.” Ussery said it is important that we do not forget who we are as a people and that the service men and women’s main goal was to strive to preserve and protect our country.
“It is a privilege to honor the heroes of our nation,” said Ussery. Many patriots have died in the pursuit of freedom, beginning with the colonial soldiers, through veterans of the War of 1812, both World Wars, Vietnam and Korean Wars and the current Iraq conflict. “The troops continue to carry the flag high,” said Ussery.
“Peace alone is not enough,” said Maj. Gen. Carl Black USAF/ANG. “Freedom is what we honor these for today. Freedom requires eternal vigilance.”
Our nation is what it is today because of the sacrifice these veterans have made. It is fitting that when they pass away, their coffins are draped with the American flag, since it is this flag they have so gallantly served.
The highway bypass dedication is a two-part program. Helton would also like to see educational plaques placed along the roadside to recognize the more than 100 wars and campaigns in which Americans have fought. The American Legion established a committee to determine which conflicts would be commemorated by a plaque.
These plaques cost approximately $2,000. Helton was sidetracked on this second step when he learned that the plaques couldn’t be placed along the bypass. Federal law classifies the road as a bypass, which means certain rules must be followed. As an alternative, Helton would like to see the plaques placed in a park-like setting in the immediate area.
The cost for the second part of this project is too prohibitive, said Helton. Different organizations will be needed to assist with the cost.
There are currently 26 million living veterans. Don Bell, U.S. Navy, said motorists should “reflect on the sacrifices we’ve made when they travel this highway.”
Jim Adams, chief of staff for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, filled in for Secretary of Transportation Lt. Gen. Maxwell C. Bailey, USAF. Bailey has since resigned to become the new director of the Department of Emergency Management,and is replaced by acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert.
Adams was in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1986-1992. From 1992-1995, he was a legislative assistant. “The Coastguard changed my life,” said Adams.
He cited Lt. Gen. Bailey, who has 32-years of service, and Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who had a distinguished military career of his own, as his role models. Adams said Helton made this opportunity possible so that Oldham Countians could “commemorate a worthwhile endeavor.”

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