Twenty-eight years ago, the Army sent two soldiers, Major General Bill Carpenter and Colonel Mike Plummer to Jefferson County. Their goal was to see if it made sense to bring the 10th Mountain Division to the area, and if so, to lead the effort. But they soon found out they'd need some help, and as our Brian Dwyer reports, the man who joined in is now being honored for his work and his efforts in connecting Fort Drum with the community with a connector of his own.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Opening just a few weeks ago, I-781, better known as the Fort Drum Connector Road, a direct path from 81 to Drum's North Gate, is supposed to help ease the daily traffic problems coming on and off the installation.
"We expect that traffic on Route 11 will be better served," NYSDOT Region 7 Acting Director Mark Frechette said. "Traffic on Route 342 and 3 and 26 will all, some of that traffic will use the new interstate."
Connector Road, a community-based direct connection to Fort Drum. And there was no better man to dedicate the road to than the man who originally helped connect Drum to the surrounding communities.
At a ceremony Thursday, I-781 became forever known as the Paul Cerjan Memorial Highway.
"The 1st impact was this morning driving in through the snow. Of course there's probably no better weather to have than today," Col. Robert Cerjan, Paul Cerjan's son said. "As you drive on the connector for the first time and you got to see the sign that says Paul Cerjan Memorial Highway, we all choked up and teared up. It brought it all home."
A home that Cerjan helped create. Twenty-eight years ago Thursday, Cerjan joined the efforts of two men, Major General Bill Campbell and Colonel Mike Plummer. They were tasked with moving the 10th Mountain Division to a small training area in the woods of Jefferson County.
Cerjan, also an engineer, took the task of building what was essentially a $1.2 billion city.
"The planning, the architectural engineering, the siting, all of that is Paul Cerjan," Colonel Retired Mike Plummer said. "Fort Drum as we know it today would not exist without him."
Cerjan also the man many say brought the community in on the project. It made the community and Fort Drum a team. It's a strong bond that may even be stronger today.
So on this day, a connector is named after a connector. Cerjan's family hopes people will think about that as they drive by.
"Who's this really named after. As they look back on his career and what he's done, they can turn around and go, 'He gave back to the community," Col. Cerjan said. "Here's what he did for the this area. Maybe that's something I can do as well."
Cerjan's wife, Pat with tears in her eyes, accepting a Senate proclamation, and thanking everyone who helped make this happen. She was smiling when talking about her husband, who helped pave the way.
Mike Plummer also told us that it was Paul Cerjan who had the foresight to understand that Fort Drum would eventually grow and it was his planning that allowed it to.