Bridge naming requests made for three veterans

John Thompson • Nov 13, 2017 at 10:17 PM

ELIZABETHTON — It may be a few days late, but Veterans Day came Monday at the monthly meeting of the Highway Committee of the Carter County Commission.

Families and friends of three veterans made requests to the Highway Committee for bridges to be named in honor of the veterans.

The proposed honors would include a small bridge on U.S. Highway 19E in Hampton to be named for Command Sgt. Major James C. Gilbert; a bridge on the old Gap Creek Road at the Morgan Branch Road to be named for Specialist Fourth Class Gary D. Murray; and a bridge on Poga Road to be named for Specialist Fourth Class Owen Ray Church.

The request for Gilbert was furthest along. The request was first presented to the committee last month by Gilbert's cousin, Wanda Marlow.

At the commission's request last month, she collected petition signatures from the community to gauge public feelings about the request. Marlow provided the commission with more than 200 signatures from members of the community.

Gilbert was the command sergeant major for 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. He was on board the brigade's command and control helicopter on March 12, 1969, in the Polei Kling area of Vietnam when one of the brigade's companies became pinned down by a battalion-sized North Vietnamese Army force. That unit's fire was so intense that medevac helicopters were unable to get all the wounded out.

Gilbert was killed while attempting to evacuate the wounded. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day.

Murray served as a medical NCO in 3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. His tour began on Sept. 15, 1966. On May 24, 1967, Murray was killed in action in Pleiku province, South Vietnam. He died from multiple fragmentation wounds received in combat. He was 20 years old.

His family is requesting that the bridge at the intersection of Gap Creek Road and Morgan Branch Road be named in his honor. The bridge is within sight of the home where Murray grew up.

Church also served in the Army. He survived the war, came home and became a carpenter and a master builder. Church died in 2003.

In other matters, the committee voted to take no action on a dispute between property owners about structures such as fences and planters in the county’s 50-foot right of way on Ridgecrest Road.

The committee held that the county road takes up only a portion of the right of way, so the county did not have a problem with such temporary structures being placed by property owners in the right of way.

Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said the county would get involved if there was a safety matter involved in the placement of items in the right of way.

The committee approved the recommendation by a vote of 5-2, with Commissioners John Lewis and Charles Von Cannon voting against it.

A request for the county to take a gravel road named Hidden Oak Lane as a county road failed because of uncertainty over the policy on taking gravel roads. The matter will be researched and may be brought up at a later date.

Committee Chairman Mike Hill said he received favorable comments from citizens on the response of the Highway Department after the flooding of the Doe River two weeks ago. Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey said he also heard favorable comments about the response to the flooding, especially in Roan Mountain during a recent town hall meeting he held there.

Hill said he would also follow up on the renaming of Hogum Hollow Road in Ripshin. Residents said Hogum Hollow Road starts in the Crabtree community. It then becomes a rough mountain road that has not been maintained for many years. It ends up on Ripshin, with two residences at that end.

The residents said there is a great deal of confusion because of the extremely different road types, especially from emergency vehicles who tried to use the road by being directed to use it by a GPS system, only to get stuck.

Hogum Hollow is generally accepted as the proper name for the road in Crabtree, but the upper end of the road had always been known as Old Mountain Road until the coming of the 911 system.

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