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story.lead_photo.caption More than 30 family members and friends of the late U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Leon Deraps gathered on his birthday Nov. 13 at Advanced Chimney Techniques, Jamestown, to reveal the Heroes Way sign, which will be installed by spring at I-70 in Rocheport on the Missouri River Bridge. The Jamestown 21-year-old was killed by a roadside bomb in May 2006 while serving in Iraq. Photo by Submission

When Sandy Deraps lost her youngest son in 2006, she said it was "very surprising and heart retching."

Twelve years later, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Leon Deraps' name will be displayed for all to see on a Heroes Way sign at I-70 in Rocheport on Missouri River Bridge.

"Those people at Heroes Way are really awesome they have fundraisers and they pick up the bill for the family," Deraps said.

Heroes Way, a non-profit, works with the Missouri Department of Transportation by covering the cost for highway signage for fallen soldiers. The program originally was limited to those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001.

As of 2015, signs are available for families of any soldier killed in conflict.

"Heroes Way started in 2008 after a good friend of ours was killed in Iraq, staff sergeant Brad Skelton," said vice president Todd Blattel, who runs Heroes Way with Ross Gartman.

So far, 34 signs have been approved and placed around the state. The program pays for the fabrication, installation and maintenance of the signs for 20 years.

Deraps' sign will be placed along a route well traveled by family in about 12 weeks.

"It couldn't be any more perfect of a location with Dale going through there everyday because of business; it was a perfect location," said Mindy Bess, program administrator.

More than 30 family members and friends gathered Nov. 13 at Advanced Chimney Techniques, Jamestown, to reveal the sign. The date would have been Leon's 32nd birthday.

"I knew it would make him smile," Deraps said.

The marine died when a roadside bomb went off May 6, 2006, while he was serving in Iraq.

"He was a happy kid and he was glad to serve his country," Deraps said.

She said the main reason for the sign is so the display can remind people of the sacrifice military soldiers give for all U.S. citizens.

"I hope that (when) people see the sign that they will say a prayer for our soldiers and their families," Deraps said. "That is to remind them that those guys are giving their lives for our county."

On the web: modot.org/memorialdestinationprograms

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