COLUMBUS (WJER) (Feb. 16, 2022) – Tuscarawas County’s representative in the Ohio House is asking lawmakers to rename an overpass outside of Uhrichsville after one of the city’s fallen war heroes.
Brett Hillyer is sponsoring House Bill 521, which would designate the one on Johnson Drive spanning U.S. 250 “Specialist Ronald Gene Johnson Memorial Overpass.” Hillyer’s legislative assistant, David Holthaus, presented testimony in support of the legislation on his behalf to members of the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee Tuesday.
“Specialist Johnson served in the Vietnam War where he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Specialist Johnson was killed by sniper fire just about 40 days before he was due to be discharged and returned to his home in Uhrichsville. Even though Specialist Johnson was killed during combat, his leadership and courage enabled his squad to continue the assault and eventually overrun the enemy.”
Uhrichsville Police Sergeant Brandon McCray proposed the designation and also testified during the hearing. He told the committee he learned about Johnson and his story in 2018 while preparing for a cross-country motorcycle ride to honor those killed in action during the Vietnam War.
“It was an incredible journey for me getting to learn the backstory of Johnson, a man who had died 10 years before I was even born, and to then honor him by carrying his Bronze Star and Purple Heart across the country with me on the motorcycle ride.”
Members voted unanimously to refer the bill to the full chamber and recommend its passage after praising McCray for his passion.
“It’s not too often that we have folks come in and testify before this committee that have gone through the depths of research and personal involvement and riding across the country and going to D.C. and rubbing your hand across his name that panel, it certainly sends some chills down your spine, so I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to come in today.”
Johnson is the namesake of the road the overpass sits on which was previously known as Township Road 286. He was the 17th casualty from Tuscarawas County in the Vietnam War and among the nearly 3,000 Ohioans killed in action.