“Turn left on Weikert Highway.”
That’s something many people in Jacksonville can now say after a ceremony this morning that dedicated Morton Avenue as the SSG Mathew W. Weikert, U.S. Army/USMC Memorial Highway. Weikert was killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.
The designation runs from Exit 68 of Interstate 72 to the Route 67 exit.
Weikert was a 2000 graduate of Jacksonville High School. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of five deployments. He was serving with the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky at the time of his death.
Former Jacksonville state representative Jim Watson was instrumental in drumming up support for the Weikert highway bill in the Illinois House.
“His last action on this earth were those to save the lives of other men and knowing this sacrifice let us resolve that we will remember him one day from now, one week from now and one year from now,” says Watson.
“By immortalizing this stretch of highway let us resolve to give Mathew Weikert what any man in uniform who has made such a sacrifice wants and deserves. Let us resolve to remember and let us resolve to keep the faith with Matt and his family and to remember this hometown hero.”
Weikert was able to radio the coordinates of his group after the IED detonated. The lives of two soldiers were saved as a result.
The Weikert highway bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate. Current Jacksonville state rep C.D. Davidsmeyer and state senator Sam McCann also spoke this morning.
“Most of all I want to thank Matt Weikert and his family for their sacrifice for each and every one of us. Matt’s parents Dick and Sue, Matt’s sisters Megan and Melissa and Matt’s son Jayse, I can’t thank you enough for your continued sacrifice,” says Davidsmeyer.
“This sign and this day marks a time when we can all come together and stay together and make sure we show the same kind of courage that Mathew Weikert showed. Courage is not the absence of fear and courage is not the ability to not be afraid, tired or weary. Courage is the ability to overcome your fear and overcome your weariness and do you duty anyway, and that is what Mathew Weikert did,” says McCann.
Davidsmeyer also thanked late Morgan County Commissioner Dick Rawlings, who he says was a “driving force” in getting the Weikert highway title.
Weikert was the recipient of numerous decorations for his service. His family was present at the dedication.
We have a photo album on our Facebook page.
Full audio from the ceremony, about ten minutes in length, below: