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By Barbara Wilson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office
A ceremony renaming a 15 mile stretch of Highway 146 from Anna to Vienna, Illinois, the Sgt. Brian Romines Memorial Highway was held June 6, in Anna, 17 years after the Illinois Army National Guard Soldier from Simpson, Illinois, was killed in action when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle he was travelling in near Baghdad, Iraq.
“The Sergeant Brian Romines Memorial Highway will not only honor a fallen Illinois Army National Guard Soldier, a loving son, and an exuberant friend, but will also ensure our solemn promise to never forget,” Brig. Gen. Rodney Boyd, of Naperville, Illinois, Assistant Adjutant General – Army and Commander of the Illinois Army National Guard told family and friends. “Brian is a hero who lived to help others and make us laugh. We will not forget. His life and his sacrifice, like so many others, are the cobblestones that pave the roads of freedom.”
Romines, a 2003 graduate of Vienna High School, enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in October 2002 and attended the Field Artillery Cannonmember Course in 2003. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery, based in Milan, Illinois.
“There are some things which happen to you in life that change you,” said Maj. Gen. retired Johnny Miller, from Tamms, Illinois, who served as Romines’ battalion commander on June 6, 2005. ”June 6, 2005 was one of the hardest days in my 32-year military career. He didn’t have to join the Army – he volunteered to join. He volunteered to go to Iraq and he volunteered to go on that mission. He’s a hero. He represents the best of our nation, our state and our area. His sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Melinda Clary, Romines’ mother, who worked with local state legislators, State Rep. Patrick Windhorst and State Sen. Dale Fowler, to get the joint resolution passed through both the Illinois House and Senate, said she is appreciative of the support she has received.
"I appreciate the kindness. It helps us to heal,” Clary said. “I think to know that people truly care and want to show they appreciate his sacrifice.”
Clary thanked officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation for installing the eight road signs along Highway 146 as well as the Gold Star families she has met in the past 17 years.
“These signs will forever more honor Brian,” Clary said. “And I am truly thankful for the friendship from the Gold Star families who know the never ending journey of grief.”
Windhorst said the renaming ceremony was a great way to pay tribute to a Soldier who fought and died for our country.
“It’s important for us to recognize and honor sacrifices made by our brave service men and women,” Windhorst said. “We owe our freedoms to the sacrifice made by our military and their family. This is a very appropriate way to honor the sacrifice by Sergeant Romines.”
Windhorst said the cost of freedom is high.
“We owe so much to those who paid the cost with their lives,” Windhorst said. “We owe Sergeant Brian Romines and his family. We cannot and must not forget the service and sacrifice of the American Soldier. That is why we rename highways after heroes. That is why we celebrate Veterans Day and that is why we pause and mourn on Memorial Day.”
Fowler agreed the dedication was an appropriate tribute and one he was honored in which he played a role.
“One of my greatest honors is to be able to recognize heroes,” Fowler said. “It reminds us each day and each moment is precious. We never know when we will get that knock on the door.”
Highway 146 has a high volume of travelers each day, and Boyd said those motorists will be able to reflect on Romines’ service and sacrifice.
“Each year tens of thousands of commuters and travelers will pass through this section of highway and reflect on Sergeant Romines’ service and sacrifice to our state and nation,” Boyd said. “Brian’s school mates from Anna Junior High and Vienna High School will drive this highway and remember their friend.”
Clary said it was only fitting the dedication ceremony be held on the anniversary of his death, but told everyone it is the least that can be done in memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“This isn't just for Brian. It's for all who didn't make it home,” Clary said. “We want it to represent all of them. They all should have this same honor and dignity and respect. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten."