N.C. 24 is the longest highway in the state, measuring 278 miles as it stretches from Charlotte to the coast.
But more importantly to Lorie Southerland, the highway is the connective tissue between Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, the state’s two largest military installations.
That’s why, for years, Southerland and other Gold Star family members have worked to have the highway designated as North Carolina’s Gold Star Highway.
The designation would pay respect and honor families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty as a member of the Armed Forces.
Southerland, whose son, Michael Rodriguez, was killed in Iraq in April 2007, is part of the Dogwood chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers, a group that’s been leading the effort to designate a Gold Star Highway in the state.
On Friday, Southerland happily announced the group’s efforts had paid off, with the state Department of Transportation set to designate N.C. 24 from Harnett County to the coast as the “Gold Star Highway.”
Signs noting the designation will be placed along the route.
The DOT will make the designation official on March 18 at 10:30 a.m. with a ceremony at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville.
Southerland manages the Fort Bragg Fisher House, which provides a place to stay for family visiting wounded or ill soldiers at Fort Bragg.
Working toward the Gold Star Highway designation has been a labor of love for her and other family members of fallen troops.