Highway now honors veterans
Muskogee Phoenix, Okla.
FORT GIBSON — Honoring the military is the right thing to do, said organizers who helped rename a flag-lined stretch of U.S. 62 on Monday.
The highway was unveiled as the Veterans Memorial Highway at a dedication ceremony where the highway intersects Willey Road in Fort Gibson.
Commander Tim Smith of American Legion Post #20 said having the section of U.S. 62 that leads to the Trail of Honor and on to the Fort Gibson National Cemetery makes for an “awesome tribute.”
“We have an average of 15 funerals a week that travel to that,” he said. “It’s a great tribute to those who come and to honor those who served.”
The highway segment had been named Teddy Lehman Expressway, honoring a Fort Gibson man who played football for the University of Oklahoma and went on to a career in professional football.
Organizers said much of the credit for the name change goes to former Fort Gibson Mayor William Boyd.
Boyd, a Vietnam War veteran, brought the idea to the town trustees and helped raise funds to pay for the new signs.
“It’s long overdue,” Boyd said. “This should have happened 30 years ago. Getting these signs up to honor veterans will be familiar to those who stand with them and by them.”
Although Boyd got some credit for the idea, special thanks went to Lehman and his family for allowing his name to be removed from the highway.
“He didn’t hesitate a moment,” said Kenneth Lehman, Teddy Lehman’s father. “We’re proud of not only his ability, but his willingness to honor the veterans.”
As a consolation for changing the name, the Lehman family got to take home the two large Teddy Lehman Expressway signs.
“I think it’s more appropriate for the highway to be named after veterans,” said Lehman’s mother, Cindy. “They don’t get enough recognition. We need to think about it more often.”
The dedication hit close to home for state Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, who has two children in the military and a husband who is a military veteran.
“For those who have served and those who have family members who serve, it means something to them,” she said.
David said she was asked in March, in the middle of the legislative session, to introduce a bill to rename the highway. The measure became part of House Bill 1759 and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May.
State Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Fort Gibson, was a co-author of the bill. He said the willingness to change the name showed a lot of integrity on the part of the Lehman family.
“I think it’s more than just a sign. It’s a reminder,” he said. “When you go to a gravesite and see the grave marks, it’s more than just a stone, it’s a reminder about a person.”
Reach Thad Ayers at (918) 684-2903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.