Owensboro native Michael Wayne Simon joined the United States Marine Corps on July 5, 1967, after graduating from Owensboro Catholic High School. Less than one year later, on June 5, 1968, Private First Class (PFC) Simon was killed in action (KIA) in the Quang Tri Province in the Republic of Vietnam.
As a machine gunner with the Third Platoon, Simon was providing a cover of heavy machine gun fire in order to allow his fellow Marines time to extract the wounded from an ensuing North Vietnamese Army. After providing cover fire, Simon joined in assisting with the evacuation of the wounded. While attempting to retrieve another injured Marine, Simon himself was mortally wounded.
Simon’s selfless acts of valor would result in a rank change to Lance Corporal, a posthumous Bronze Star Medal and, most recently, a legislative resolution requesting that a stretch of county road in his hometown bear his name.
On Saturday, June 15, Kentucky Route 144 in Daviess County, from the Kentucky Route 603 intersection to the Highway 60 intersection, will be designated as Lance Corporal Michael Wayne Simon Memorial Highway. There will be a small service at VFW Post 696 at 1 p.m. before those in attendance ride out to the site.
Although this week marked 51 years since Simon’s death, his remaining family, including sister Janice Davis, have often wondered if having a road named after him was a possibility.
“You drive down the road and you see a dedication to a soldier on a highway,” Davis said. “I’ve often thought Mike deserves to be remembered in some way.”
Davis contacted local veteran advocate and family friend Mike Swift to see what could be done to have a road dedicated in Simon’s name.
“Being a veteran myself, it’s dear to my heart,” Swift said. “Anything I can do to help a veteran or family member of a veteran, I’m going to do it best I can.”
Swift reached out to Kentucky State Representative for the 7th District Suzanne Miles, who Swift says was “instrumental in getting this done.”
“Suzanne is grateful to veterans and always has been,” Swift said. “I didn’t hesitate to call her — she jumped right on board.”
Miles said veterans Lou Drawdy and Swift very seldom ask for anything so, when they do, she knows the issue holds a lot of importance to them.
“They want this — I’ll do everything I can do to help them do it,” Miles said. “At the end of the day, I see us as public servants. Anything that we can do to honor our veterans we want to do that. It just so happens that we are in a position to facilitate the honor.”
Miles said road dedications go into a bill that lists every road being designated and then through a process that typically happens at the end of a session. While some road dedications can take up to two years to be approved, this particular bill took a little over a year.
“State legislators can request a road dedication for anybody for anything, but I have been very cautious as a state legislator not to dedicate too many roads,” Miles said. “I’ve been very selective — the ones I have done have been very specific to people.”
Miles has been instrumental in local road dedications for the Tuskegee Airmen located on the road leading into the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, SPC Brandon Scott Mullins who was KIA in Kandahar province in Afghanistan in 2011 and Miss Kentucky 2018 Katie Bouchard.
“We try to choose an area that has a sentimental purpose to that area or to that family,” Miles said. “Brandon’s sign was purposefully put up in front of the school so when the kids go to school they would know what that sign means.”
Miles said the location for Simon’s sign was selected near the end of town where he grew up. Simon’s sister said the sign at Kentucky Highway 144 will not only be near where Simon grew up, but also where his son currently lives.
Michael Wayne Simon, Jr., who Davis affectionately calls Michael Wayne, was just two-years-old when his father died. Now 53, and having barely known his father, Michael Wayne still draws inspiration from his father’s military service.
“The one thing he does and I’m so proud of him for, when it comes to the Vietnam veterans, anything he can do for them, he’s right there for it,” Davis said. “He didn’t even know his dad, but he’s honoring his dad every time he does something for those veterans.”
While Davis is eagerly anticipating the road dedication, she also expects it to be a very emotional day. Michael Wayne, who is a member of Second Brigade Motorcycle Club, will be leading the procession to the site, and John Kaper, a Vietnam era Marine who was stationed with Simon, will be in attendance.
“The man that was with Mike the day he died is going to be here,” Davis said. “He called one Easter Sunday and told the family about the events that took place. He said he wasn’t a very religious man, but he looked over and saw Mike’s spirit leave his body. It’s such an honor that this man is coming to this dedication.”