PARIS (CBSDFW.COM) – The names of fallen soldiers are typically etched in stone. Sgt. Jay M. Hoskins' name has been printed on metal.
Drive 10 miles north of Paris and you're sure to see it. The sign bearing his name marks a stretch of US 271 from Loop 286 north to the Oklahoma border. It's now known as the Sgt. Jay M. Hoskins Memorial Highway.
"They've talked about it for a long time. But to actually see the sign, it is just overwhelming," said Sgt. Hoskins' mother Michelle Widner.
Sgt. Hoskins, from Paris, signed up as a Marine at the age of 18. Before his death, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.
But he was in the Farah Province of Afghanistan when a roadside bomb took his life in August of 2009. He was only 24.
He left behind a wife and two small young sons, one whom hadn't been born yet.
"He would've been an amazing father," said his wife Chandler Hoskins.
At the time of his death, The Paris News reported Hoskins was the first city resident to die in combat since the war in the Middle East began. While serving his first tour in Iraq in 2004, he fought in the Battle of Fallujah and received a Navy Unit Commendation medal, given to him by then-President George W. Bush.
One year later, he fought in Toro Boro in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The decorated Marine received his first two Afghanistan Campaign medals there, defense records show, in addition to three combat ribbons, three sea service deployment ribbons, an Iraqi Campaign medal, a Navy Marine Corps Service medal, a National Defense Service medal and, finally, a Purple Heart.
Chandler Hoskins said their children are still too young to understand what happened to their father.
"He just kept asking me, 'This is my dad's highway? This is my dad's highway?" Hoskins said. "'Yes, son, this is your dad's highway.'"
Chandler Hoskins said her husband was a humbler man. She said he told her if he died, he didn't want a big ceremony.
But, the sign is also for her sons. She said she wants them to know, as they're growing up, just how much of a hero their dad was – not just to them, but to everyone.
"He was pretty awesome," she said.
The memorial sign was made possible with the passage of Senate Bill 1925, introduced by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R – Tyler). It was paid for through private donations.
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