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POW/MIA signs replaced throughout the state

One of the new POW/MIA signs has been installed at the Rail Splitter rest area

In the early 1990s, a group of veterans organizations posted signs at rest areas throughout the state memorializing the “Illinois 99” – the 99 Illinois service members who were unaccounted for following the Vietnam War. In recent years, these monuments to POW/MIAs deteriorated to the point that many of the names were wiped away by the elements and the signs almost looked abandoned.

Earlier this year, IDOT assumed responsibility and took on their restoration. The result has been beautiful new signs appearing at rest areas that were researched, designed and produced entirely by IDOT employees.

“The POW/MIA signs have stood for decades in remembrance of those missing and lost during the Vietnam War,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “We are proud to play a part in ensuring the original signs are replaced with new, modern versions that will be a proper testament to the sacrifices of these brave sons of Illinois.”

The names of the 99 were researched using the Federal Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency list, published online here.

Marshall Metcalf, chief of IDOT’s Traffic Project Implementation Unit, led the effort to research an updated list of names and oversaw replacement of the signs.

“We were glad to determine that 35 of the original ‘Illinois 99’ service members have been identified, and the new signs will memorialize the remaining 64,” Metcalf said.

Locations were chosen based on their proximity to hometowns of the missing. The new signs were fabricated with modern sign sheeting and digital printing techniques. Each sign cost about $250, along with another $250 for installation. In total, the project ran approximately $12,000 and was done entirely in-house.

Osman said the effort and expense are insignificant to a state and an agency that prides itself on remembering the contributions of veterans and the military.

“This is a valuable public service we have performed, and I am extremely proud of the way our staff stepped up,” he said. “I see it and say it all the time, but IDOT has a heart.”

To keep the signs in good condition in the years ahead, IDOT staff will continue to monitor and maintain them as they do any other road signs.

Metcalf said it was a group effort, crediting Central Sign Shop Section Chief Rickey Davis and Standard Sign Unit Chief Cory Pelc of the Central Sign Shop with designing and fabricating the new signs. District traffic personnel are handling the sign installation.

The team was honored to be a part of the project.

“I’ve handled special signing projects before, but the stories from people involved with this one drive home the point that these signs, while not our usual work of keeping stop signs and destination signs up, are deeply meaningful,” Metcalf said. “It was a privilege to be a part of a project that recognized Vietnam veterans. I hope that some of the families of those who had been identified and removed from the POW/MIA list felt some comfort and closure from the recovery of their loved ones.”

The signs can be viewed at the Prairie View, Mississippi Rapids, Turtle Creek, Krisdala Baka, Mainline, Great Sauk Trail, Mackinaw Dells, Spoon River, Illini Prairie, Salt Kettle, Rail Splitter, Green Creek, Cumberland Road, Pride of the Prairie, Post Oak, Gateway, Silver Lake and Skeeter Mountain rest areas.

The missing service members memorialized include:

  • Lt. Col. Harold Alwan
  • Capt. Robert Beutel
  • Lt. j.g. Thomas Brown
  • Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Buell
  • Capt. John Causey
  • Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dean Clinton
  • Lt. Cmdr. Ralph Cobbs
  • Capt. Willard Collins
  • Warrant Officer James Dayton
  • Sgt. Maj. Ronald Dexter
  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dennis Eads
  • Petty Officer 3rd Class William Farris
  • Lt. j.g. John Golz
  • Lance Cpl. Joseph Hill
  • Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Housh
  • Col. Notley Maddox
  • Spc. 5 James Mason
  • Lt. Col. Carl McCormick
  • Staff Sgt. William Moore
  • Capt. Wayne Newberry
  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Nightingale
  • Capt. Roger Partington
  • Lt. Cmdr. Gordon Perisho
  • 1st Lt. William Price
  • Staff Sgt. Dennis Rattin
  • Maj. Ronald Rexroad
  • Maj. Robert Riggins
  • Staff Sgt. Billie Roth
  • Cpl. Richard Sands
  • Spc. 4 David Scott
  • Capt. Dean St. Pierre
  • Lt. Col. John Swanson Jr.
  • Pfc. Jerrold Switzer
  • Staff Sgt. Oral Terry
  • Maj. James Whitt
  • Spc. 4 Richard Wiley