New road signs salute veterans in Aiken, North Augusta | Local News
Observant 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 at least one of Aiken’s oldest veterans.
Richard Johnson, an Army veteran who served in Korea from 1951 to 1953, attended three rallies on Wednesday to unveil new road signs honoring veterans, as did Dwight Bradham, director of the County Veterans Bureau. ‘Aiken. 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 and… traveling,” he said. “I thought we had to do something to identify 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 on US 25 near the Edgefield County line and directly across from the SRP Federal Credit Union facility, about a half mile of Murphy Village.
The signs at Aiken are approximately 200 meters apart. One, proclaiming the Veterans Memorial Highway, is on York Street, a short walk from the Center for African American History, Art and Culture and near Aiken First Baptist Church. It designates US 1 (which includes this section of York Street), to I-20, as being in honor of veterans.
The other Aiken store is on Richland Avenue (US 78), near St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic School and Aiken School of Cosmetology and Barbershop. It marks the Gold Star Families Memorial Highway, which stretches 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 credited Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken and other lawmakers with helping make progress.
“The 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,” Bradham said.
Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, noted that lawmakers received a substantial boost from the SC Department of Transportation commission to move the project forward. “All credit goes to the people, like Mr Johnson, who did it,” he said, acknowledging the origins of the project.
Johnson said he hopes some of the new wording could be changed “to include all veterans, WWI, WWII, Korea and all, so when you’re driving down 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 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,” Rep. Melissa Oremus, R-Aiken, said, addressing the North Augusta assembly.
Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, also spoke to the North Augusta group, just steps from US 25. The Aiken County delegation is 100 percent to help you.”
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.”