Marine's Memorial Came With $3.2K Tab for His Family

Mark Schmitz says he was 'a little shocked' to be sent bill for road signs in tribute to fallen son, Jared
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
Family of Fallen Marine Hit With 'Sucker Punch' Over Memorial
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/golubovy)

Last summer, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill to designate a bridge over Interstate 70 as the Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz Memorial Bridge, in honor of a 20-year-old Marine who was one of 13 service members killed by a suicide bomber the prior year in Afghanistan. KTVI reports that the state DOT recently erected signs on both the eastbound and westbound sides of the highway along a stretch in Wentzville to indicate the bridge's new name, but the signage came with something unexpected: a tab for $3,200, sent directly to Schmitz's family.

"We were a little shocked to get a bill in the mail ... to pay for our own signs," says Mark Schmitz, who makes sure to add he's grateful for the tribute, per FOX 2. Schmitz says he wondered if the families of the other troops killed with his son had experienced something similar, including those in other states; he found out, after making some inquiries, that they hadn't. "That's insane," he noted. It's not that the Schmitz family couldn't afford to pay for the signs—there was enough in donation money to cover the cost from a charity they founded to help the fallen and veterans. Still, they were a little thrown that they'd have to pony up for the road signage.

So was state Rep. Tricia Byrnes. "That is not a look we want in Missouri," she says, calling what happened to the Schmitzes a "sucker punch." To make sure no other family ever goes through the same, Byrnes recently introduced a bill in the state House that would bar billing the families of fallen cops, firefighters, and members of the military for memorial signs. That legislation has already unanimously passed the House, and Byrnes is now urging state senators and, eventually, the governor to make it into law. "We really want to honor our heroes," she says. "I don't ever want a hero's family to feel that way ever again." (Read more Marines stories.)

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