County wants bridge named for fallen Marine
DOT policy could alter those plans
By NIKIE MAYO
Beaufort County commissioners have asked that the Pungo Creek Bridge be renamed to honor Lance Cpl. Johnathan Kirk, the 25-year-old Pamlico Beach native who died in May from injuries sustained in Iraq this spring. But a state Department of Transportation policy could prevent that from happening.
Because of that opinion, any other request to name a bridge or highway for a serviceman could be seen as “duplication,” Jarvis said Monday. “I’m not going to say that it can’t happen, but that could be the roadblock,” Jarvis said. “Somebody could do the Adopt-A-Highway program and we could put up the signs locally. We certainly don’t want to seem anti-veteran.”
The Blue Star Memorial Highway Markers program began in the mid-1940s. Since then, signs have been erected across the country to honor members of the armed forces. Interstate 40 in North Carolina is designated as a Blue Star Highway, as is N.C. Highway 17 from Williamston to Elizabeth City, according to DOT.
Kirk, a straight-A student from Northside High School, liked to lift weights and wrestle with his younger brothers. He earned an associate’s degree from Beaufort County Community College before deciding to join the Marines in January 2006.
Kirk had been in Iraq about three weeks when a roadside bomb exploded near his truck on April 23. He died May 1 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He was awarded the Purple Heart, a military honor given in the name of the president to those who are wounded or killed in service.
Hundreds of mourners gathered May 6, an unseasonably cold day, at the Pamlico Beach Community Cemetery on Rattlesnake Lane, to pay their last respects to Kirk.
Hooten said he made the naming request in hopes of helping Kirk’s family “begin the healing process.” He initially requested that a stretch of U.S. Highway 264 near Northside be named for Kirk, but later, the bridge idea “seemed to work, too,” he said.
The Pungo Creek Bridge is near Cee Bee Marina, between Sidney and Bath, and is not far from where many of Kirk’s family members live. The bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2010.
The commissioners passed a resolution to that effect last month, but are still awaiting word from DOT.
“It is a shame that a life with such promise ended so abruptly,” Hooten said. “But Johnathan made the decision that brave men and women make every day. He made the decision to step up.”