JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A new Missouri law authorizes the state to cover costs of highway memorial signs in honor of fallen first responders and service members killed in the line of duty.
Prior to this year, families were billed for Missouri highway memorials that honored fallen veterans.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 127 into action earlier this year, meaning the state will cover costs for highway memorials rather than families. Within the new law is the “FA Paul Akers, Junior, and LCPL Jared Schmitz Memorial Sign Funding Act,” which took effect in August.
According to the law, “All costs associated with the designation of bridges or highways honoring deceased Missouri veterans who died in the line of duty, Missouri members of the Armed Forces who are missing in action, deceased Missouri law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, or deceased Missouri firefighters who died in the line of duty shall be paid by the Department of Transportation.”
In 2021, Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz of Wentzville was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing at a Kabul airport. It happened as the U.S. attempted to withdraw military forces from Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, FOX 2 learned that even though the state of Missouri honored Schmitz with a memorial sign on Interstate 70 near Wentzville, the state also sent a bill for the sign to his family, leaving his family, community members and lawmakers shocked.
Another service member with Missouri roots, Fireman Apprentice Paul Akers Jr. died in 1969 when the USS Enterprise exploded and burned off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Legislators also learned his family was billed for a highway memorial sign in his memory.
The legislation not only allows Missouri to cover costs associated with highway signs honoring Schmitz and Akers, but fallen first responders and service members who might be honored with a highway memorial sign in the future.