Highway to be Dedicated to Clackamas County Medal of Honor Recipient

A dedication ceremony will be held next Tuesday for a future memorial highway sign honoring Larry Gilbert Dahl, a U.S. Army specialist who was killed in action during the Vietnam War — and Clackamas County’s only recipient of the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration.

The ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, December 8, in the auditorium of the Clackamas County Development Services Building, 150 Beavercreek Road, in Oregon City. The sign will be installed on Highway 99E (McLoughlin Boulevard) at milepost 14, near the “Welcome to Oregon City” sign at the southern entrance to town in Canemah.

Dahl, who was born and grew up in Oregon City, earned the posthumous honor while serving as a .50-caliber machine gunner on an armored gun truck, dubbed “Brutus,” near An Khe, Binh Dinh Province. On February 23, 1971, Brutus and two other gun trucks in its convoy entered the battle zone and engaged the attacking enemy troops with a heavy volume of machine-gun fire, causing a large number of casualties.

After a brief period of intense fighting, an enemy hand grenade was thrown into the truck housing Dahl and his comrades. Dahl was the first to see it and recognize the danger. He instantly called a warning to his companions and threw himself onto the explosive — saving the lives of his three crewmates. He was 21 years old.

“Through his indomitable courage, complete disregard for his safety, and profound concern for his fellow soldiers, Sp4c. Dahl saved the lives of the other members of the truck crew while sacrificing his own,” Dahl’s Medal of Honor citation reads.

“Sp4c. Dahl’s conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and intrepidity at the cost of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit and the U.S. Army.”

Vice President Gerald Ford presented the Medal of Honor on August 8, 1974, only hours before Richard Nixon announced he would resign the presidency and Ford became president.

Then-House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, who represents Oregon City’s neighboring district, introduced a concurrent resolution earlier this year to officially honor and recognize Dahl’s extraordinary courage and selfless sacrifice.

Representative Mark Meek, a Democrat from Gladstone and U.S. Air Force veteran, co-sponsored the measure, and Senator Bill Kennemer, R-Canby, carried it in the Senate. It passed both chambers unanimously, paving the way for Dahl to be honored with a Fallen Hero Memorial Highway Sign.

Clackamas County resident Jim Riggle paid the standard ODOT fee of $600 and has been credited with helping kick-start the effort to honor Dahl.

The Committee on Memorials & Remembrance, in affiliation with the Vietnam Veterans of America, worked with the state legislature, ODOT and Riggle to coordinate the sign-raising effort.

“It is appropriate that Clackamas County honor Specialist 4 Dahl in this fashion,” said committee Chair Steve Bates, of Boring. “More people need to be aware of his sacrifice in Vietnam. He gave his life for his comrades.”

The dedication ceremony will include remarks by Kennemer, Meek and Steve Carr, President of Portland’s Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 392. The Clackamas County VFW and American Legion posts will also be represented.

The ceremony is open to the public. Covid-19 protocols will be followed.

The memorial sign is the latest effort to pay homage to the hometown hero. County Chair Tootie Smith, Oregon City Police Chief Jim Band, former Oregon City Mayor Doug Neeley and VFW post commander DJ Ruger led efforts in 2016 to relocate the memorial that had been in the back of a parking lot in the Museum of the Oregon Territory since 1988.

In November 2016, Dahl’s memorial was rededicated in the Circle of Honor at the Red Soils Complex of Clackamas County government.

Dahl is buried at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland. Among his other honors is a place in the Oregon Military Museum, which is at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas.

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