LEESBURG, Ga. — An online group has been formed to try to sway public officials to rededicate U.S. Highway 19 in Lee County in honor of a native son who was killed in combat last year.
Lance Cpl. Steve Sutton was killed last year during combat operations in Afghanistan.
The former Lee County football player was laid to rest in Albany, but a newly formed group on Facebook is urging public officials to do what they can to rename the portion of U.S. Highway 19 in Lee County for Sutton.
The group was formed by Retired Marine Master Sgt. James Freundschuh, who posted on the group’s page that he would like to see the highway dedicated to Sutton by the anniversary of his death — May 26.
Lee County Commission Chairman Rick Muggridge said Monday that he sympathized with the movement’s motives, but said that the proposal could hit a speed bump because of U.S. 19’s designation as a state highway.
“There are no words I could ever use to express the debt I feel to Steve and his family,” Muggridge said. “... but U.S. 19 is a state route and I know that the state is usually hesitant to rename one of their roads.”
Muggridge did, however, point to the Heroes Run — a 9.11k run set for Feb. 23 — as one that was created to honor Sutton and the 10 other area natives who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As you know, we’re doing a Heroes Run in an effort to pay homage to the values that Steve lived and died for,” Muggridge said, “after which we’ll be commissioning or consecrating a permanent memorial for Steve in Leesburg.”
Freundschuh said Monday afternoon that he’s glad that the movement has gained support since it was first posted at albanyherald.com Monday morning, and said that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get Sutton the memorial he deserves.
“I’m a retired Marine and I’ve lost Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Freundschuh says. “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 Cpl. Sutton did was more important than the things they’ve done and that more should be done to honor him.”
Freundschuh says he’s prepared to sign any petition, to call or write anyone or talk with any organization that is needed to get Sutton what he says is the proper memorial.
“I’d like them to name a highway or bridge after 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.