Drivers entering Saratoga County from Route 9 will soon be reminded of the service and sacrifice of U.S. Navy submarine sailors.
The state Legislature has designated the highway as the "United States Submarine Veterans' Memorial Highway - Saratoga County."
The designation comes after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week signed a bipartisan bill, sponsored by state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake. It was passed by both houses of the Legislature earlier this year.
"A lot of people said it couldn't be done, and we got it done," said submarine veteran Fred Miller, of Clifton Park, who began pushing for the designation in 2015.
At one time, Miller, 77, was Electric Boat's site manager at the naval nuclear training center in West Milton, and he later learned the legislative process as executive director of the Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission.
"We got it done in 15 months, which is about half the time it usually takes to get legislation," he said Thursday.
Miller, the two state legislators and more than a dozen other submarine service veterans gathered Thursday morning at PJ's BAR-B-QSA in Saratoga Springs to mark the designation.
"This deserved designation honors the service and sacrifices of America's submarine forces that defend freedom and protect liberty," said Marchione. "It provides visibility and long-overdue recognition to the submarine forces that have contributed so much to America's national security."
The Capital Region has been closely associated with the submarine service since 1950, with the development of naval nuclear reactors at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna and construction of the naval nuclear reactor training site in West Milton.
"Saratoga's strong naval presence makes this portion of Route 9 a fitting and well-deserved memorial to honor those who bravely served aboard submarines and helped preserve and protect our nation's safety," Woerner said.
Navy submarines played a vital role in fighting the Japanese during World War II, and during the Cold War years, nuclear-armed submarines were constantly on patrol, as they remain today.
"You don't see them, but they're out there all the time," said Mike Marco of Malta, a retired submarine fire control technician who served in the Navy from 1956 to 1975.
"In 1946, I decided I wanted to join the Navy, and my mother said, 'As soon as you get a high school diploma,'" he recalled. "I got by high school diploma, enlisted, and the next week, I was off to boot camp."
Marco and Miller are both active in the Albany-Saratoga chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc., which hopes to see submarine veteran highways designated in every state.
The organization has a large Capital Region chapter because of the number of sailors who have passed through West Milton, where as many as 2,000 naval personnel are stationed at any given time as students and instructors. Many retired in the region after their service.
Navy Commander Elvis Mikel, commanding officer of naval support activity in Saratoga Springs, said the highway's designation will give today's sailors a connection to the Navy's submarine history.
"It's a great for the new sailors to have a tie to the past," Mikel said, noting that the U.S. Navy will mark its 241st anniversary on Thursday.
Highway signs marking the new designation are expected to be posted on Route 9's northern and southern entrances to the county within four or five months.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.