A 14.2-mile stretch of Route 42 spanning six towns in Camden and Gloucester counties will forever be named Purple Heart Memorial Highway after Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno signed into law a bill renaming the roadway at Stetser-Lamartine American Legion Post No. 281's Chews Landing hall Wednesday afternoon.
"I am proud to sign this bill into law, giving the honor and respect to all Purple Heart recipients—past, present, and future—that they deserve for their bravery, heroic service, and sacrifice to New Jersey and to the United States," Guadagno said.
The Purple Heart Memorial Highway stretch of Route 42 will run from Bellmawr to Monroe Township, touching parts of Runnemede, Gloucester Township, Deptford and Washington Township in between.
Guadagno, who is serving as acting governor while Gov. Chris Christie is out of the state this week, credited Sicklerville resident Chuck Byers with pushing the Purple Heart Memorial Highway bill to its passage.
Byers is an Army veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam. He is also commander of Glassboro's Military Order of the Purple Heart DJ Bentz III Chapter No. 336, named in honor of a Clayton man killed in Iraq in June 2007 while serving in the Army.
"It's a legacy," Byers said, "of what (the Purple Heart) represents—that we shed our blood for this country, serving this country. That's what it's all about. It's a memorial, and it's also a reminder."
The measure was sponsored in the state Senate by Sens. Fred Madden (D-4) and Donald Norcross (D-5).
"There's a lot of vehicle traffic, both in-state and out-of-state. High visibility," Madden said of Route 42 being selected for the Purple Heart Memorial Highway bill. "The intent of the bill was a way of saying, 'We remember your sacrifice,' to the recipients of the Purple Heart. A lot of those recipients are great citizens."
Assembly bill sponsors Gabriela Mosquera (D-4) and Gilbert "Whip" Wilson (D-5) joined Madden at Wednesday's bill-signing event.
George Washington established the Purple Heart in 1782 as a way to honor members of the military who were wounded or killed in service to their country. There are now more than 2,600 members of New Jersey's Military Order of the Purple Heart.