South Dakota officially adds Purple Heart highway policy

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota is coming up with another way to honor wounded veterans.

The state Transportation Commission now has a Purple Heart signing program.

Communities, counties and tribal reservations can sign up.

Some places already participate directly through the Military Order of the Purple Heart USA, such as Corsica, Garretson, Mitchell, Parker, Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

Counties include Day, Dewey, Grant, Minnehaha and Turner.

There are other locations including businesses and South Dakota State University in Brookings.

The entire length of Interstate 90 across South Dakota is a Purple Heart highway, too.

Now there is a formal state policy that Christina Bennett helped develop. She is operations traffic engineer for the South Dakota Department of Transportation in Pierre.

She told state commission members during a presentation Wednesday the signs can serve as a visual reminder of the high price paid by people who serve in the armed forces.

Forty-five states honor Purple Heart recipients in some way, she said.

Ken Teunissen of Sioux Falls is commander for the Department of the Dakotas branch of the national Purple Heart order.

Teunissen and Bennett showed the green signs that the group provides to cities, counties and reservations.

“And then they’re logged in on the Purple Heart Trail as a Purple Heart entity in the state of South Dakota,” Teunissen said.

Bennett said each location could get four signs.

“We would install those under the community boundary signs on each state highway. If it wasn’t a state highway, then it would be up to the community to install signs on roads under their jurisdiction,” she said.

She added, “They could choose one to be on the town board and the others could go off right of way.”

State prisoners would make the signs in Sioux Falls.

“They are getting signs from the same place we do at the state sign shop, out of the penitentiary, which is Pheasantland Industries,” Bennett said.

DOT crews would put up the signs.

“We’re willing to pay for that just so it’s properly installed,” Bennett said.

Teunissen said the Department of the Dakotas supports the state’s new policy.

“Although our membership is restricted to combat wounded, we support all veterans and their families,” he said.

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