Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. James Freundshuh is leading a push to have U.S. Highway 19 from Leesburg to the Kinchafoonee Creek Bridge renamed for Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province last year.
LEESBURG, Ga. — James Freundshuh is a man on a mission to honor a fallen Marine.
In May, Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton was killed in combat in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. After seeing thousands of people line U.S. Highway 19 from Leesburg to Albany’s Crown Hill Cemetery for Sutton’s funeral procession, Freundshuh, a retired Marine master Sergeant, was moved to honor the young Marine.
“I feel (renaming U.S. 19 from Leesburg to the Kinchafoonee Creek Bridge in Sutton’s honor) is a proper way to honor one of out fallen heroes,” Freundshuh said. “His procession down 19, with thousands of people lining the highway, makes it an appropriate place to honor him.”
Freundschuh points out that Leesburg already proudly touts its famous citizens, and the retired Marine feels Sutton deserves the same recognition.
“I’m a retired Marine, and I’ve lost Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Freundschuh. “When I go to Leesburg, I see the signs pointing out Luke Bryan and Buster Posey and Phillip Phillips, and don’t get me wrong, I understand they’re famous, but I think what Lance Cpl. Sutton did was more important than the things they’ve done and that more should be done to honor him.”
The rub is that U.S. 19 is a state route. And that complicates matters.
State Rep. Ed Rynders, in a Feb. 1 letter to Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn, said the renaming was possible, but Rynders wanted both the city and county commissions to be on the same page.
“Please be mindful that once the resolutions are passed by both the city of Leesburg and the Lee County Commission, a request from my office will be made to the Georgia Department of Transportation for review,” Rynders wrote. “At that time, GDOT will review the proposal to ensure: the facility is in the state system, the facility has not already been named and there are no conflicting signs already installed.”
Rynders also pointed out that past dedications have included bridges, intersections and stretches of state highways. More importantly, he added that the renaming of local and county roads does not need state approval.
Freundschuh said he is acutely aware that since World War II 10 county servicemen have been killed in action and should also be acknowledged. The retired Marine said he would not be opposed to expansion of the city’s current veterans park with a wall of names.
However, at the moment his focus is on Sutton.
“I would like to see a road, maybe the football stadium, one of the middle schools or a bridge named for him, so that 50 years from now a kid can look up at the bridge and ask his dad who that man was, and he’d be able to tell the story,” Freundschuh said.
Lee County Commission Chairman Rick Muggridge agrees that Sutton should be honored, but Muggridge wants it done the right way.
“There is no rush to do this,” he said. “We want to hear from the citizens of Lee County and get their input. We need to find a way to honor anyone who has given his or her life for this country. We want to do this the right way, whether it’s a road or a bridge or something else.
“What we want to avoid is locking ourselves into one thing.”
In the meantime, Freundschuh has created a Facebook page, “Dedicate US Highway 19 In Leesburg Ga, to Fallen Marine Steve Sutton,” which has garnered more than 2,000 “likes” since Jan. 31.