By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Mississippi Purple Heart recipients are one step closer to having a highway in their honor stretching across the northern portion of the state.
Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Mississippi Department of Transportation representatives gathered Saturday near Highway 6 in Oxford to declare the Lafayette County portion of Highway 6 a Purple Heart Highway.
U.S. Army Big. Gen. James Edwin (Ed) Mitchell said this is an important step honoring the men and women who have been wounded or lost their lives for America.
“I’m here today because I assure you, from one state line to another, we can pave a highway with the blood of those who gave their lives and much of their lives if they survived in combat,” he said.
The two-time Purple Heart recipient and Tupelo-area native said he carries a reminder of the men he’s lost on his uniform.
“I want to make this very personal,” Mitchell said. “In command of the rifle company of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, in one six-month period, I had 38 killed and over 100 wounded. I’m here for every one of them. In my pocket I carry a card of the names of those 38 killed.”
Mitchell talked about one soldier in particular, Staff Sgt. Ed Bishop.
“He was killed less than 30 yards from me in 1969 on a lonely hilltop in Vietnam called Granite. His remains have not been recovered,” Mitchell said. “As an Army Ranger, part of my creed is that I will never leave a fallen soldier. I will go to my grave trying to figure out how we can get the remains back of Sgt. Bishop and return them to his family.”
Vietnam veteran Joseph Browning of Etta said the highway dedication is the right thing to do.
“It just means more recognition for the guys that served,” said the 11th Army Cavalry veteran. “Nothing will ever make up for the wounds they got but it’s something.”
Flip Phillips, Panola County Board of Supervisors’ attorney, said the county board has requested the state legislature allow them to dedicate the Panola County section of Highway 6 as a Purple Heart Highway.
Larry Nims of the American Legion in Tupelo said he has approached the Lee County Board of Supervisors about dedicating the Lee County portion of Highway 6 and they have said they plan to do the same.