COLUMBUS — State Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, presented sponsor testimony Tuesday on House Bill 521, which would designate a bridge over U.S. Route 250 in Uhrichsville as Specialist Ronald Gene Johnson Memorial Overpass.
"The importance of H.B. 521 is to honor Specialist Ronald Gene Johnson who died in action in the Vietnam War," said Amy Myers, who was present for sponsor testimony Tuesday. "Renaming the Johnson Avenue Bridge to ‘Specialist Ronald Gene Johnson Memorial Highway’ is just a small way our small community can recognize the sacrifice he made for our country.
"I hope that with the formal naming and accompanying signage at the Johnson Drive Overpass, it will inspire every motorist that passes beneath or over it, to look up who Johnson was and read his story. I hope that it further inspires them to look up the names of the various other service members who have roadways and bridges named in their honor, and learn about them as well. Their lives are more than just a name on a sign, bridge or overpass."
Johnson, 23, of Uhrichsville, entered the Army on Nov. 28, 1966. He arrived in Vietnam on May 10, 1967 and was to serve one year.
Johnson was able to enjoy time with his wife while on leave in Hawaii in January 1968, just one month before his death. He was killed on Feb. 7, roughly 40 days before he was to come home.
Johnson received several decorations during his service including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with "V" device.
His Bronze Star citation reads, “For heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Specialist Four Johnson distinguished himself while serving as a squad leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, and 4th Infantry Division.”
Johnson is listed as the 17th casualty from Tuscarawas County during the Vietnam Conflict.
“It was an incredible journey having the opportunity to learn the back story of Specialist Johnson — a man who died 10 years before I was born," said Uhrichsville police Sgt. Brandon McCray, who testified on Tuesday. "It’s been an honor to help try to ensure that his — as well as other veterans — sacrifice will not be forgotten. The brave men and women who serve in our country's armed forces give us all the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy."
The bill passed out of Transportation and Public Safety Committee unanimously and will soon head to the Ohio House floor for a vote.