A cool spring rain only seemed to make the setting more somber as family, public officials, veterans and others gathered for the unveiling of a sign Friday dedicating a portion of SR 124, just west of Hillsboro, as the Army PFC Neil R. Scott Memorial Highway.
Scott was a Hillsboro High School student who left school before he graduated to serve in the Korean War. He has never returned.
“I am so proud. Something should have been done a long time ago,” said Korean War veteran and Highland County Veterans Honor Guard member Denver Conley, who started proceedings long ago that culminated in the naming of the section of highway in Scott’s memory. “I went to the family and talked to them about it and they were overjoyed that some type of recognition was going to be done.
“You think about it – he died on Jan. 31 in North Korea and it was probably well below zero on that day so far north. This is a good day compared to when he died, so I don’t mind standing out in the rain.”
One sign marking the section of highway is located at the west edge of Hillsboro near the city corporation limit. The other sign is located at the intersection of SR 124 and Anderson Road. That section of road runs past the SR 124 brick home where Scott was raised, about 1.5 miles outside the city limits.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’d be proud, and my parents would be elated,” said Montey Scott, who was just a child when his brother left to serve his country. “It’s totally unreal that so many people take time out to do this.”
Neil Scott was a junior at HHS when he asked his parents, Andrew and Seymoura (Chaney) Scott, if he could join the Army. Montey was 14 years his junior.
After leaving high school Neil became a medic in the U.S. Army’s 21st Infantry Regiment and was deployed to Korea when hostilities broke out, according to the Highland Veterans Service Commission.
“His unit was among the first American troops to engage in combat in Korea in July of 1950,” said a letter the Veterans Commission sent to the Hillsboro Board of Education last year requesting that a diploma be granted to Scott. “The initial battle did not go well and Neil was among 750 who were captured by the North Koreans. They were marched north to an area near the Chinese border. He survived until Jan. 31, 1951, when survivors of the captivity state he succumbed to the extremely harsh conditions and was buried there. His remains have never been recovered.”
The Hillsboro City Schools presented Scott’s family with a high school diploma during Veterans Day ceremonies last year.
Kevin Barreras, vice president of the Highland County Veterans Service Commission who helped finish the work Conley started, said, “This is tremendous. I spent 13 months in Korea and I know what it’s like to be over there and support the people. I hope that in five or 10 years things are different and we can go over there and recover his body and bring it home.”
One of the Honor Guard members on hand for the occasion was Bob McLaughlin, who lived near Willettsville growing up and rode with the school bus with Scott. McLaughlin said that he was in the HHS class of 1950 and that Scott was a year ahead of him.
“He was just an ordinary boy, but this would make him proud, I think,” McLaughlin said.
He said there are 10 people still alive who rode that school bus – Ralph Michaels and his wife, Willa (Gregory) Michaels; Ralph’s two brothers, John and Gene; and the Michaels’ two sisters, Jeanette Gossett and Lugene Dixon – among them.
One of the speakers at the unveiling ceremony was Mark J. Cappone, assistant director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.
“My thoughts are of sacrifice and worth. I think many of us who served wonder, were my sacrifices worth it. In Mr. Scott’s case, I can say it was. …Mr. Scott was a combat medic and he lived by the saying, ‘so that others might live.’ …Some say the utterance of a name is what makes a soul stay. So everytime someone drives by and sees his name on this sign, he will be alive, and his sacrifice will not have been in vain.”
Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger also addressed those gathered for the occasion. He said it is true that sometimes military members wonder if their sacrifices were worth it. But he said that when he looked and young kids that were in attendance and considered the freedoms the United States offers, it is obvious that they were.
“People often ask me if we should do this type of thing, and do we have enough highways to remember everyone?” Rosenberger said. “My answer is that I don’t think there’s ever enough we can say to honor the people who have fought and died to protect our freedoms.
“… I know (Neil) is looking down and watching this … and he will think and know what his service meant to this country.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.