Central Oregonians and visitors traveling Highway 97 should soon see new road signs, honoring Oregon's World War II veterans for their service and pointing to several local sites where they trained for battle.
Senate Bill 449 has now passed in both the House and Senate; Thursday's House vote was 48-0. The bill recognizes the service, sacrifice and dedication of Oregon's WWII veterans.
Once signed by the governor, the designation and a series of road signs funded by veterals will educate local communities and travelers about the highway's role during the war.
Veteran activist Dick Tobiason of Bend called it an historic day for veterans.
"We will finally honor WWII veterans, as it has been done in other states," he said. "Now Oregon will join that long list of states that has used this approach."
And that approach includes designating Highway 97 as the "World War II Veterans Historic Highway."
Tobiason and his supporters have high hopes that Gov. Ted Kulongoski will sign the bill soon, to get things under way.
"Then it becomes a law," Tobiason said. "Then we sit down with ODOT and come up with agreements of how we veterans will implement the law by putting up the signs - and we pay for them of course."
The historic highway will be an honorary title, posted on new highway signs.
Bob Maxwell of Bend, Oregon's only living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, said they didn't have time for such efforts after the war, because attending to family and their education came first.
"Now that we're retired, we've got time to put into it," he said, "and I think it's good we're able to honor the WWII veterans."
Over 10,000 Oregonians from the six counties along Highway 97 served in the war. The legislation honors not only those Oregonians, and all Americans who served.
Maxwell, who threw himself on a grenade to shield his fellow soldiers, called it a blessing to be here to receive such an honor.
"I'm thankful to be here," he said. "God spared my life, and I'm hoping that I can fulfill his will and his ministry."
Veteran committee members are waiting on word when the governor will sign the bill, and hope to be there for the ceremony.