UPDATE #2 - from USFallen dot org - "UPDATE: The Governor of OK is working on having this matter resolved. In the meantime, the Director of the Turnpike has agreed to pay the toll himself. It is important they understand it is not about the price, it is about dignity and honor owed to an American warrior and his family, who has paid the ultimate price."
UPDATED with a letter to the OK Turnpike Authority from a Gold Star Mother (below the original post).
PFC Cody Board died 4 October 2010 from wounds sustained by an IED. PFC Board grew up in McKinney, TX but was originally from Oklahoma. His family plans to lay him to rest in his native Oklahoma at Fort Sill National Cemetary.
I am DEEPLY disturbed by this article from USFallen dot org that states the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has denied the funeral procession free access to take PFC Board's body home for his interment. DEEPLY disturbed. The following is posted in an article on their site: "Considering this young warrior has paid the ultimate price you would think his funeral procession would be allowed access free of charge. To our shock and horror, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, after repeated requests for an exception, has informed the family they must pay the toll fees."
When I read the article I figured it just could not be true so I called the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority this morning. Everyone I spoke with was nice. HOWEVER, the story is true and that, quite honestly, makes me about as angry as I've been in a long time.
I finally spoke directly with Mr. Jim Hazeldine, Assistant to Director of Turnpike Authority who, well into the conversation, told me he is a Veteran of the Navy. When I said, "Happy Birthday yesterday" he asked if yesterday was the Navy's birthday. I told him it was, in fact, the Navy's 235th birthday. He had no clue.
Mr. Hazeldine said that their hands are tied on this issue. He said that the law states that the only vehicles that are allowed free access are emergency vehicles that are "running hot." He went on to explain that the toll road is not a publically funded road. That it was built with bond funds therefore it is not a public entity and they cannot grant free access.
Cry me a river!
I told Mr. Hazeldine it was a sad day in our nation when the family of a fallen Soldier had to deal with this along with their grief. I added that toll costs should be the LAST thing any family of a fallen HERO should have to worry about or pay PERIOD. He told me there is a non-toll highway that runs near the toll road that the family had been made aware of. Seriously? He also told me that they have been working with the funeral home so that the funeral procession will not have to stop to pay the toll but that the funeral home will be billed for the tolls. SERIOUSLY? I replied that I'd write a check myself before I'd stand by for the funeral home to add in the cost of tolls for PFC Board's family.
Then Mr. Hazeldine went into a speech about how IF there was a law passed that allowed free access to funeral processions of the fallen that would create a need to raise the toll for other cars. REALLY? And even if it did - SO WHAT? Then he compared the Turnpike to a utilitiy. I reminded him that our utility rates increase often because low income and welfare recipients cannot often aford their high utility rates in the winter and summer. I also reminded him this is about a young man who GAVE HIS LIFE for our nation. I told him you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT put a price on that.
I think you get the picture.
From USFallen dot org:
Office of Governor
Brad Henry, Governor
Telephone: (405) 521-2342
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST
Oklahoma Turnpike Authority
Tim Stewart, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer
Hours: Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST
Letter from a Gold Star Mother to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority - God Bless you Cheryl
To the Director of the Authority,Tim Stewart, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer,
I received mail stating that recently a family wanting to use the toll to take their son, PFC Cody Board , to his final resting place....wait... no... their SOLDIER SON... were expected to pay the toll charge for the procession to utilize a "pay for use" highway. I AM SOOOOOO ASHAMED to say that your company is American... so disgusted with your disregard for the price of your freedom... the freedom to have something that produces revenue for so many people, mainly our government... who hired this soldier to defend OUR freedoms! GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK!
We lost our Hero Son 3 years ago on September 23, 2010, thank God we live in a place that did not charge us for use of the airport authority who ensured a protected runway that our son was flown to. Thank God we have people who are not afraid to STAND UP for what they believe is RIGHT AND TRUE. Thank God that ALL our active public safety members didn't charge us for use of their time and vehicles those multiple days to honor our son traversing from the airport to the funeral home, to the church, to the school gymnasium, to the cemetary. Thank God the State or school didn't charge us for a day of closing the school because over 2000 people attended SFC Matthew Blaskowski's funeral and there was no other place large enough for his funeral. Thank God people in our community UNDERSTAND SACRIFICE AND THAT IT AFFECTS ALL OF US DEEPLY. Well those of us who understand the true cost of freedom.
I swear that if I ever come your way, that I will NOT use your SELFISH Toll road to traverse across that part of our FREE COUNTRY... what is free about that?!!!! Seriously. How many soldiers have lost their lives from your area? I would think the majority of people traveling that toll on that day would have gladly pay extra to allow that family and that HERO to make the journey to his final resting place an undisturbed one.
Another thing... I find it funny how the Authority were making it "easier" for the family to not have to pay the toll on the day of procession... SERIOUSLY... maybe it would make the authority LOOK BAD when a funeral procession had to individually stop and pay toll for each car involved.. or that it would SLOW the entire process for the authority to have all those vehicles waiting for each other after the toll to reform the procession.
I AM SO DISGUSTED and SORRY that there are people in OUR FREE country who CARE THAT LITTLE for our freedoms to not RESPECT and HONOR those families and those HEROES who sacrificed so you could be TOTAL IDIOTS about this issue. Just remember sirs, CARMA. What you give is what you get...I pray that God will forgive you for your blatant disrespect of another human beings most tragic time. Truly, think about your purpose here on this earth, money will get you nowhere in the end.
We've paid enough of a toll and so did PFC Cody Board and his family.
Gold Star Mother (this means we lost a loved one in the military, didn't think you would know that either
SFC Matthew Blaskowski
KIA 23 Sep 2007