National, state and local leaders joined a crowd of citizens Friday to dedicate a roadside memorial sign for Oregon City High School graduate and former U.S. Navy SEAL Tyrone S. Woods, who sacrificed his life in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 12, 2012, after escorting the nearly 30 diplomatic staff to a safe house.

Photo Credit: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Oregon City veterans gather in City Hall to protect the newly unveiled roadside memorial sign for Tyrone Woods before it was installed Friday on Highway 213.Co-hosting a Sept. 5 ceremony at Oregon City’s City Hall to recognize and remember Woods, state representatives Brent Barton (D-Oregon City) and Bill Kennemer (R-Canby) sponsored the bipartisan bill to honor OC’s native son. The Oregon Legislature unanimously voted for House Bill 3494 on April 29, 2013, to honor Woods not only for his actions in Benghazi, but also for his 22 years of service to his country as a Navy SEAL and a CIA security contractor. Barton said his most treasured moment in securing the legislation was when all the legislators volunteered to pay for the $600 sign out of their own pockets, a memory that still brings tears to his eyes, adding that working on the project “restored my faith in our world and in politics.”

Photo Credit: PHOTO COURTESY: CHERYL CROFT BENNETT - This family photo shows Tyrone Woods circa the year 2000.With the passing of this bill, the Oregon Department of Transportation was directed to erect and maintain a “Fallen Hero Memorial Highway” sign for Woods on Oregon Route 213 near milepost 2. The sign was installed soon after the Sept. 5 ceremony.

“I thank God for Tyrone Woods and other fallen heroes like him,” Kennemer said. “He was willing to charge into incredible odds and give his life for all of us… It’s because of them that we have this wonderful free country we all live in.”

This memorial stands as a tribute by the state of Oregon to Woods’ devotion to duty, and his concern for others, as a SEAL and as a medic, but especially for his courage in Benghazi that helped save 30 lives during the attacks. U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon City) said it makes his sacrifice all the more poignant that so many people are still giving their lives for the U.S. overseas.

Speakers only made passing reference to how the Benghazi attack has become an issue in the 2014 election season.

Barton said that the middle of a heated Presidential campaign provides “anything but a rational world,” and he was grateful that the “media circus” failed to make it to Oregon City. Woods’ sacrifice had nothing to do with Democratic and Republican political struggles, he argued.

“He was on the side of freedom and America,” Barton said.

'Remember him always'

To lose a son in this way “has been heartbreaking beyond words,” said Woods’ mother, Cheryl Croft Bennett, who expressed her “heartfelt gratitude” to the legislators and other parents who lost children for their support.

“We have had to accept the unacceptable, but we are not alone,” she said.

Bennett was not the only speaker to note the irony of honoring Woods on Highway 213, “his own Indy 500 speedway.”

“In lieu of his name on a traffic ticket, it will now be memorialized on an ODOT sign,” Bennett said, adding that she will have a difficult anniversary coming up. “Keep them in your hearts this Friday, Sept. 12: They are all-American heroes, and they should never, never be forgotten.”

Mayor Doug Neeley reminded the crowd in the City Commission Chambers that it’s been a difficult two-year period for Oregon City, with Woods’ sacrifice coming back-to-back with the on-duty slaying of OCPD Reserve Officer Rob Libke. Neeley expressed his hope that the naming of Highway 213 in Woods’ name would help emotionally connect the various political and cultural regions of the state through the highway’s physical connection of Oregon City to rural Clackamas County.

Ed Burton, former coach at Oregon City High School, gave a shout-out to Pat Johnson, Woods’ wrestling coach while he attended OCHS.

“When I hear about Ty’s story, I’m am humbled by what he was able to accomplish,” Burton said. “We cannot do enough to honor Ty Woods…The most we can do and the least we can do is remember him always.”

Kirk Klebaum, one of Woods’ many childhood friends and wrestling teammates, remained in contact with him through the years.

“He was loyal to fault, and he showed that loyalty by making the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for another,” Klebaum said. “I hope this sign isn’t just a reminder of the sacrifice he made, but also a reminder of what he was able to achieve.”