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A bill in Salem, backed by area veterans, would honor veterans who have served in all military branches.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Russ Clark, a veteran of Desert Storm, supports a bill that would designate U.S. Highway 30 to honor veterans. Local veterans are pleased with a proposal to designate U.S. Highway 30 as the Oregon Veterans Memorial Highway.

In February, state Sen. Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican, introduced Senate Bill 790, which would apply the designation to all of Oregon's 477-mile stretch of the well-traveled highway.

On March 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness.

The committee has sent the bill to a full Senate vote with a recommendation that it be approved.

Russ Clark, a veteran who works at Community Action Team in St. Helens, favors the proposal.

Clark was in the Army for 22 years, serving in such locations as Fort Benning, Fort Hood, Fort McClellan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"I think it's a great idea," Clark said. "There are a lot of highways that I go across, when I drive across the nation, that are for World War II veterans, Korean veterans, Vietnam veterans. They are great reminders of sacrifices made by veterans."

Clark continued, "I hope people notice those when they actually drive by, and think about it."

While Clark likes the idea of recognizing veterans with a new name for Highway 30, he doesn't want people to forget about Ralph Painter, the Rainier police chief who was shot and killed in the line of duty on January 5, 2011.

A stretch of Highway 30, between St. Helens and Rainier, was designated as the Police Chief Ralph Painter Memorial Highway after Painter's slaying.

"Ralph was known as very caring and kind," Clark said. "He went above and beyond his call of duty for his community. Unfortunately, he was killed in the line of duty. He did a lot of good things for his community."

Another veteran in support of the highway designation is Chad Miller, of Rainier, a veteran of the Gulf War.

"I think it's a great idea," Miller said. "I like it a lot — not for myself as the (more) recent veteran, but more so for the Vietnam veterans that have gotten less recognition than the rest of us — it's a recognition that needs to be addressed."

U.S. Highway 30 extends over 3,000 miles to Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is the only major highway in Oregon not designated to honor veterans.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Scappoose Democrat, is rooting for the bill's approval.

"Given that I'm the child of two World War II veterans, I'm very supportive of acknowledging the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the military," Johnson said. "I thank Senator Knopp for bringing the bill forward, and I thank Mr. Tobiason for his unflagging determination to have these roads renamed to honor veterans."

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dick Tobiason is the driving force behind the legislation. Tobiason is with the nonprofit Bend Heroes Foundation.

There is no word on when the Oregon Senate will vote on the bill, which has been amended to include on highway signs seals of all military branches, including the National Guard.

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