Thirteen U.S. military members died in America’s 2021 pullout in Afghanistan, including one from Missouri. U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz of Wentzville was killed on August 26, 2021.

The 20-year-old Schmitz was killed by a suicide bomber while evacuating Americans and Afghan allies from the country. He was on his first deployment and went to Afghanistan two weeks before he died.

A Missouri House committee is considering two bills that would ask the state to pay for all costs associated with the designation of memorial highways, bridges, and VFW posts honoring fallen Missouri military members and law enforcement officers.

Schmitz’s father, Mark Schmitz, backs the proposals. He’s working to get the state to place a sign along a bridge on I-70 in Wentzville to honor the hometown hero.

“Being a Gold Star father, everyone knows you die twice. The last thing I want is for my son to be forgotten,” said Schmitz. “To be on I-70, to be visible to so many people every day, would be tremendous.”

The cost of the sign is about $3,200.

“I did speak to the other 12 families. They’re all from other states,” he said. “Not a single one of them had to pay for a sign for their highways or for their bridge ways, three of them being California of all places.”

State Rep. Tricia Byrnes, R-Wentzville, is sponsoring House Bill 882.

“I think if we have people that are dying for our country and dying for our communities, the least that we can do is not hand them an invoice because in my opinion, that’s just selling signs to people who sacrifice their life for us,” said Byrnes.

State Rep. Don Mayhew, R-Crocker, is sponsoring an identical bill, House Bill 518.

“Keep in mind, folks, these are the folks who gave all to represent our country. The least we could do, if we’re going to have honorary signs, the very least that we can do is pay for it,” said Mayhew.

The Missouri House Transportation Accountability Committee is reviewing both bills. The legislation could be changed to include fallen firefighters.

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