Heroes Way sign honors fallen Marine from California parish


A heavily-traveled highway has a new reminder of the incalculable cost of freedom.

The Heroes Way Foundation placed two signs — one for each direction — near the Rocheport Bridge on Interstate 70, in memory of Lance Cpl. Leon Deraps, a California parishioner and U.S. Marine who died in the line of duty 12 years ago in the War in Iraq.

Father Anthony Rinaldo, pastor of the Annunciation parish in California and St. Andrew parish in Tipton, blessed the sign bearing the fallen Marine’s name on Nov. 13.

“We had the dedication on Leon’s birthday,” stated Lance Cpl. Deraps’ mother, Sandy Deraps, a member of Annunciation parish in California. “He would have been 32. That’s why it was such a special day.”

Heroes Way (www.he roesway.org) is a non-profit organization devoted to erecting highway memorial signs honoring U.S. soldiers lost in combat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speakers at the dedication included Todd Battle from Heroes Way; state Rep. Sara Walsh of Ashland, who represents parts of Boone, Cole, Cooper and Moniteau counties and who sponsored the (House resolution) authorizing the sign honoring Lance Cpl. Deraps; and Nathan Bess, who was a member of Lance Cpl. Deraps’ Boy Scout troop, his wife Mindy Grapes Bess, and their son Corbin.

Lance Cpl. Deraps died in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq’s Al Anbar province in May 2006.

A four-mile stretch of Highway 87 through Jamestown was named in his honor in 2008.

Mrs. Deraps said she and her husband Dale, a retired Marine who served in the Vietnam War, hope both markers will remind people to pray for those in uniform defending freedom throughout the world, and their families.

“Please remember those men and women who are out there for you, and pray for them and their families,” she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Deraps have gotten more involved in their parish and community and in organizations that help veterans and service member and their families since their son died in action.

“It has totally inspired me,” said Mrs. Deraps. “I’m on a mission now. Leon pushed me into a mission. Love with the Lord and helping out at Annunciation. It helps the pain of missing someone. It helps you get through it.”

She said it comforts her to remember how much Lance Cpl. Deraps enjoyed helping other people and staying active at church.

His earthly remains are at rest in Assumption Cemetery in Cedron.

“You try to stay in a state of grace and help others said Mrs. Deraps. “Jesus was with him, I’m sure. He just ran ahead.”