This past week, I was honored to take the oath of office for the 17th Ohio Senate District as we began a new legislative session. Watching my colleagues take the oath of office, I was reminded of what a privilege it is to serve the people of Southern Ohio in the Legislature.

I had a similar thought a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to join families from across Ohio to witness the Governor sign into law a bill designating memorial highways and bridges in recognition of the sacrifices made by Ohioans serving in the armed forces and in law enforcement. Included in the bill were memorial highways for four servicemen from my district. 

Army Pfc. Gavin Colburn of Frankfort was killed in April 2005 when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his convoy vehicle as he was travelling along a supply route in Iraq. Lance Corporal Aaron Reed of Chillicothe lost his life in August 2005 when his unit was hit by an IED while serving in Iraq.  Master Sergeant Brad Clemmons, also of Chillicothe, was killed in Iraq in 2006 when an IED struck the vehicle he was riding in. Finally, Chillicothe-native Staff Sergeant Joshua Gire died in 2011 while serving in Afghanistan following injuries he sustained when his unit was hit by an IED.

I am always struck by the courage and selflessness of our veterans – and reminded of the many sacrifices they and their families endure. These young men chose to answer the call of duty and follow in the footsteps of the millions of men and women in donning the uniform of service – and placing their lives on the line so we might live in peace.

Each had a bight future ahead of them – one that was tragically cut short when they made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. While words alone will never be enough to express our thanks and gratitude to these soldiers and their families, they are a small token of our appreciation. 

The memorial highways for Pfc. Colburn, Corporal Reed, Sergeant Clemmons and Sergeant Gire will be located along stretches of roadway in Ross County that were selected by their friends and families, and signs will be erected in the future by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Standing with family members who had lost a loved one during the bill signing, I was so grateful that my colleagues and I in the Legislature were able to pass this bill during the busy end of the year. While we passed a number of bills impacting veterans and their families, to me these memorial highways and bridges are the most tangible way we can acknowledge the service and sacrifice of our veterans. For many soldiers, the past decade has been marked by multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of the Middle East. It has only been through their courage and selflessness that we are able to enjoy the American life that we so dearly cherish. For that, we are all indebted to them.

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