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What started as an effort to honor fallen soldiers in Southeast Missouri with signs along interstate highways has evolved into a much bigger challenge: raising enough money to put up signs for all of the more than 100 soldiers who have died in Afghanistan or Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001.
A not-for-profit organization is being set up to raise the money. Under a law signed last year by Gov. Jay Nixon, memorial signs may be put up near an honoree's hometown through the Heroes Way Interstate Designation Program. The Missouri Department of Transportation collects a $2,200 fee to pay for each soldier's signs and future maintenance.
Ross Gartman, a Delta businessman and former National Guardsman, is spearheading the fundraising for the project. He hopes enough money can be raised to have signs up across Missouri in two years. Funds already have been raised for four fallen soldiers in Southeast Missouri, and Gartman says those signs should be up by Memorial Day.
Fundraising is on hold until all the paperwork is completed to create the not-for-profit organization for this statewide project. Soon, donors will be asked to contribute. Gartman and others are doing a good thing, and any support they can get will be greatly appreciated.