New road signs greet veterans in Aiken, North Augusta
November 11 – Attentive drivers in western Aiken County may notice new traffic information in place this week, just in time for Veterans Day and due to months of effort by local lawmakers and the minus one of Aiken’s older veterans.
Richard Johnson, an Army veteran who served in Korea from 1951 to 1953, attended three rallies Wednesday to unveil new road signs honoring veterans, as did Dwight Bradham, director of the Veterans Affairs office of the Aiken County. Two of the signs are in Aiken and one in North Augusta.
Johnson, from Dunbarton, said the panels represented almost two years of work. The idea came “from just being a veteran andâ¦ traveling,” he said. “I thought we needed to do something to identify the veterans in Aiken County because there are a lot of veterans in Aiken County.”
The North Augusta sign, marking a Blue Star Memorial Highway, is located on US 25, near the Edgefield County line and just across the highway from the Federal Credit Union SRP, approximately half a mile from the village by Murphy.
The signs in Aiken are about 200 meters from each other. One, proclaiming the Veterans Memorial Highway, is on York Street, a short walk from the Center for African American History, Art and Culture and close to Aiken’s First Baptist Church. It designates US 1 (which incorporates this section of York Street), through I-20, as being in honor of veterans.
The other Aiken sign is on Richland Avenue (US 78), near St. Mary’s Help of Christians Catholic School and the Aiken School of Cosmetology and Barbering. It marks the Gold Star Families Memorial Route, which runs from downtown Aiken to the Barnwell County Line.
Bradham thanked Johnson for his efforts in promoting the project, noting that work had been significantly delayed due to complications from COVID-19. He thanked Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken and other lawmakers for helping move forward.
âThe signage was actually put up late Monday night, and I spent the day yesterday trying to do a check, to make sure everything was where it needed to be,â Bradham said.
Representative Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, noted that lawmakers had received a substantial boost from the SC Department of Transportation commission to move the project forward. âAll the credit goes to the people, like Mr Johnson, who did it,â he said, acknowledging the origins of the project.
Johnson said he hoped some of the new wording could be changed “to include all veterans, from WWI, WWII, Korea and everything in between, so when you ride on the highway, when you see this sign, you are talking about soldiers and veterans of all wars. “
Trenton resident Kevin Joy, whose background includes the Marines (1973-85) and Army National Guard (2001-14), made similar comments. “He represents the veterans, and that’s what we need to focus on. It shows the local community that we still respect our veterans,” he said.
“This is just a small sign of something the legislature might do, just to honor you,” said Rep. Melissa Oremus, R-Aiken, addressing the North Augusta assembly.
Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, also spoke to the group in North Augusta, a short walk from US 25. The Aiken County delegation is 100% supportive. “
The Blue Star Memorial Highways are in honor of the United States armed forces. The Gold Star Families designation, as defined by the USO, goes to “families of military personnel who have died in the line of duty.”