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Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway sign dedication was held on May 19

by Amber McDown

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway sign was dedicated during a ceremony held at Fire Station 5 just west of Dixie Inn on May 19. The actual signs are located at mile marker 40 (eastbound) and mile marker 43 (westbound) on Interstate 20, though the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LaDOTD) requested that the ceremony not be held at either sign for safety reasons. 

A large crowd of veterans and community leaders gathered for the ceremony, showing that these signs are an important acknowledgment of their service to the United States.

Jerry Madden spoke about how the idea for the sign had come about.

“Two years ago, in the spring of 2021, I had a thought that we’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam exit,” said Madden. “And at that time we had done nothing for our Vietnam veterans. I served during that time, and there’s many of you who served during that time but may not have put your foot on Vietnamese soil. But you still served.” 

He contacted LaDOTD and asked how many signs dedicated to soldiers were on bridges and overpasses along I-20 in Louisiana.

“He looked up the information and said, ‘You’re not going to like it. You only have three,’” said Madden. 

When Madden asked why there were so few, he was told that no one had asked for them. 

“Well, we’re going to ask,” said Madden. “We’ve compiled a list, and there’s going to be more, ladies and gentlemen. There’s going to be more.”

They decided to save the locations at bridges and overpasses for individual soldiers, and so they picked mile marker 40 near Dixie Inn.

Representative Dr. Wayne McMahen helped get these signs passed through the legislature and was the first to donate to have the signs made. Retired Major Billy LeJeune donated the majority of the cost, and the Daughters of the American Revolution donated the remaining amount. 

“It has been a long time coming, and it’s late,” said Madden. “We should have done this years ago, but it’s here now.”

Representative McMahen also offered some thoughts on the memorial, saying, “I grew up in the 60s and 70s here in Webster Parish. I was fortunate in one way to be just young enough that I didn’t have to serve in Vietnam, but I had a lot of friends who were older than me. I watched those friends come back to La Tech, and I saw how they were affected. That made an impression on me — of what they did to serve our country. They were protecting freedom for the world that we live in, and I’m so appreciative of you who did serve. I really appreciate what you guys and ladies have done for us, letting us be here today in a free country because of your service. It was a privilege to have a small part in this.”

This ceremony was held the day before the Armed Forces Day program in which Vietnam veterans were the special guests.

Mayor Nick Cox, Rep. Wayne McMahen, Rep. Thomas Pressly, and Jacie Brent

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