- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 2, 2004

FREDERICK, Md. — Two new monuments along Interstate 70 mark decades of progress for Korean War veterans who once considered themselves forgotten soldiers of a forgotten conflict.

The simulated granite signs near Myersville and Mount Airy designate 40 miles of I-70 as a Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway. Located at either end of Frederick County, each marker is 20 feet wide and features a concrete outline of the Korean Peninsula, jutting 9 feet into the air.

Local veteran Charles R. “Buck” Wisner, the project’s chief fund-raiser and organizer of today’s dedication ceremony, said he hopes drivers take notice. More than 60,000 vehicles travel the stretch daily, according to the State Highway Administration, including many tourists bound for the nation’s capital.

“It’s something that I thought had to be done,” Mr. Wisner said. “This helps to give people appreciation for the boys and girls who went over there.”

Mr. Wisner, 75, a burly retired firefighter from Frederick, didn’t go to Korea. He was drafted in 1951, a year after the United States joined the conflict, and was assigned to a Military Police unit at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where his duties included guarding a cross-country shipment of guided-missile parts.

When a high-school classmate, Ira Miss, was killed in Korea, “it kind of hit me,” Mr. Wisner said.

The pain never left.

“Sometimes I feel like I let those guys down by not volunteering to go to Korea. This is the least I could do,” he said.

Mr. Wisner’s first opportunity to memorialize the 26 Frederick County residents who died during the three-year war came more than a decade ago, when he organized the 1990 dedication of a Korean War monument in a downtown Frederick park.

“Buck did a fantastic job,” said state Delegate Galen Clagett, Democrat, who chose Mr. Wisner for that job. “He’s very dedicated and hardworking and sincere, and we’re lucky to have a guy like that.”

In 1994, Mr. Wisner organized a local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association. Six years later, he attended a ceremony dedicating a bridge on Maryland 51 near Cumberland to two local war heroes, and inspiration struck.

“It impressed me how they handled it and how they honored these veterans, and coming back home, I said, ‘We ought to start something here,’” Mr. Wisner said. “I just thought it would be appropriate that we got something named after Korean veterans.”

Initially, he sought memorial status for the entire 93.5-mile length of I-70 through Maryland. In 2002, the General Assembly passed a bill authorizing dedication of the Frederick County section.

“Half a loaf is better than nothing,” Mr. Wisner said.

His group raised more than $15,000 for the project and obtained donations of materials and services to reach the required 50 percent match of a state allocation of $50,000 in federal transportation enhancement funds.

SHA spokeswoman Lora Rakowski said the dedication is fitting for I-70, which also is named for President Eisenhower. Eisenhower pushed for the Interstate Act of 1956, creating the superhighway system.

Nine other roadways in Maryland also are dedicated to veterans, including one in Baltimore County — Maryland 43 — that honors Korean War veterans, according to the SHA.

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