I am disappointed and yet not surprised that the Effingham County Board Road and Bridge Committee denied the Tipswords' request to honor their fallen, Keith Tipsword, who died during World War II at Pearl Harbor.
I want to share my story so all who read this will understand that Gold Star Families only want their fallen remembered for their sacrifice. That politics needs to be left out of the decisions. Instead of trying to find a reason to not honor someone, how about asking them to tell their fallen’s story, their family’s reactions to the loss of their loved one and think about yourself in their situation still hurting from a loss 78 years ago.
In the fall of 2017, I found out from some Gold Star Families that IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) had established ‘Designated Highway Memorial Signs’ for numerous fallen. Each has its own criteria and the fallen heroes from any war made it more difficult but not impossible. I wanted to honor my brother, SP4 Michael H Flood, who was killed in action on 04 APR 1969 during the Vietnam War, so I started doing some investigating into how I could do it without too many obstacles.
My first thoughts were to have road signs within Toledo or Greenup, Illinois, since that was Mike’s stomping ground while growing up. I had to think about everything that went on in the 1960s during a war that no one backed as they did during World War II. So many still today have strong opinions regarding those who served in that war.
I remember first being a Gold Star Sibling. I didn’t feel comfortable talking about the loss of my brother because someone always had something negative to say and I felt they were saying those horrible things about my brother, along with all the other men and women serving. I was only 12 years old but still understood that the people serving, whether drafted or volunteered, were doing as their country asked them to do for a cause they believed in. We were very proud that Mike was a combat medic who carried an M-16 and earned the honor of being called "Doc" by his combat brothers. It took our family 43 years to learn exactly what happened to Mike and having a memorial of some type around the hometown felt like the next step in our healing process.
Since I haven’t lived in the area since 1977, I felt I needed to check if either Toledo or Greenup had any honorary signs for the fallen of Cumberland County. I found nothing online but still felt with the negative opinions I have been exposed to in Champaign County, that it was likely it still existed in my hometown area. I didn’t want to put our family through anything negative or have to fight to honor our brother.
After all these thoughts went through my mind. I decided to check into the IDOT signs, find out where the state's jurisdiction began and ended on Rte. 121 between Toledo and Greenup, and be sure no part of that section had been renamed.
In January 2018 I was able to file my application for "SP4 Michael H. Flood Memorial Highway," along with the mandatory copies of Mike’s birth certificate, DD1300 (providing proof of his KIA), my birth certificate showing we are siblings, my marriage license to show both my maiden and married name and a printout of proof I am listed on the Gold Star Registry.
IDOT completed their investigation that the documents I sent were valid then they sent it on to state Rep. Reggie Phillips' office to write the resolution. He was able to get it through the house on May 10 and send it on to state Sen. Dale Righter, who was able to get it through the Senate on Memorial Day May 28, 2018.
Our family had the dedication honoring not only Mike but all the Vietnam fallen from Cumberland County to a standing room-only crowd on Aug. 5 at the American Legion in Toledo. We were so honored that so many came to support the fallen and their families. We could not have asked for a better outcome.
I feel I may have prevented the heartache the Tipsword family is now experiencing and I am so heartbroken that they must endure the many excuses put forth to not honor Keith after he gave his all for our great nation. I encourage this family to go with IDOT for signs or maybe federal for a USPS renaming, thereby bypassing local government. It may be a pain to get all the documents for the state but it was well worth the outcome of honoring a fallen who did as his country asked him to do for the sake of trying to assist another country to gain their freedom from oppression.