WELD COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — On the edge of the small Weld County towns of Eaton and Ault, two shiny signs now hang on the shoulder of two highways in honor of two Colorado heroes. And it’s thanks, in large part, to a Colorado veteran who refused to give up.
“They need to be honored,” retired Navy Chief Thomas Roberts told FOX31.
Roberts is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and proposed that a stretch of Colorado Highway 85 in Eaton be named the “Private Joe P. Martinez Memorial Highway.” Martinez fought and died in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska in World War II and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics.
“It’s one of those battles that no one ever hears about. And it was on American soil,” Roberts said.
“People just think about Pearl Harbor, but this war was fought in Alaska, and they were there trying to move up the islands all the way into Alaska. And this young man made the ultimate sacrifice and deservedly won the Medal of Honor because he motivated all his brothers to charge,” said state Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron.
Bipartisan support for WWII memorial highways
Holtorf helped Roberts do the impossible: get unanimous, bipartisan support for a joint resolution at the statehouse to designate memorial highways in honor of Martinez and Col. Stan Cass.
Cass was born in Briggsdale, Colorado. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.
He later formed Honor Flight Northern Colorado, a nonprofit that transported Vietnam and Korea veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit monuments built in their honor. A portion of Colorado Highway 14 through Ault is now dedicated to Cass.
“Now people can sit there, look at that and say, OK, this guy was a true American hero,” Roberts said.
FOX31 Hero of the Month
While he didn’t do it alone, Roberts led the effort. And his persistence in getting the memorial highway designation for two Colorado heroes didn’t go unnoticed.
Roberts has been named the FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month. In addition to a plaque, he receives a $500 Visa gift card from our Serving Those Who Serve sponsors at Ford and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.
“Why I nominated him is he’s a phenomenal guy. He’s just got passion,” his wife Suzie Thomas told FOX31.
So if you happen to drive through Weld County and catch one of those new memorial highway signs, be sure to take a moment to think about the two Colorado men who served and sacrificed. And be sure to remember the hero who made sure they’re never forgotten.
“You know, we all look at (those signs) and we go, Tom did that!” Suzie Thomas said.
To nominate a veteran or active-duty service member for our Hero of the Month honors, visit the nomination page.