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NEWS | July 8, 2014

Eustis roads reflect more than 200 years of history

By Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 10,000 personnel pass through the main gate at Fort Eustis, Virginia each day, onto its web of roads. Many of these everyday travelers and commuters may not be aware that under layers of asphalt lie layers of history.

While these glimpses into history are left all but unseen, the installation still keeps the legacy alive. Through the naming of its streets, Fort Eustis pays tribute to Soldiers who made great impacts in the Army, and honors Virginia-born presidents.

"It is important for the Fort Eustis community to know that they are part of a long tradition of service to the nation," said Dr. Christopher McDaid, 733rd Civil Engineer Division environmental element archaeologist. "By commemorating the people, events and places we are reminded of that tradition."

The first road personnel encounter on Fort Eustis is Washington Boulevard, named after 'the founding father of our country," President George Washington. Born near present-day Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Washington not only served as the nation's first president, but also led the Continental Army on the peninsula during the Revolutionary War.

While Washington may be a commonly-known fixture in U.S. history, as drivers approach the heart of intersections, they cross the installation's round-a-bout called Hines Circle. The intersection is named after U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Frank T. Hines, who guided Soldiers during World War I. Hines served as the chief of the Embarkation Service, assuming the responsibility of transporting more than two million Soldiers to and from Europe during World War I. In this way, his name also serves as a guide for travelers across Fort Eustis today.

Lee Boulevard is also named for a military hero, this time U.S. Army Gen. Robert E. Lee. The general commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War from 1862 to 1865, eventually surrendering. Later, Lee became president of Washington College in Virginia, now known as Washington and Lee University.

"We preserve names through more than just streets," said McDaid. "Many buildings, towns and military installations are named in honor of someone [or something]. That's really the reason to honor someone and keep their accomplishments in peoples' minds."

Fort Eustis' Mulberry Island Road is one of the only post streets not named after an actual person, but rather after the previous name of the post. Before it was purchased by the U.S. government in 1918 prior to entering the Great War, it was named Mulberry Island. Colonists first named the area for its dense population of wild mulberry trees, and the island dates back to early Virginia maps and writings of John Smith, an English soldier, author and leader of the Virginia Colony. Mulberry Island Road, established before 1861, runs almost the same path it did over a century ago.

"It is often said that 'if you don't know where you came from, it's hard to know where you are going,'" said McDaid. "History is like that. Knowing the history of our place, knowing what people have done, what they are capable of doing. It allows people to find stories of courage and service they can use as role models."

A Soldier may only need to drive to work to learn about the history of Fort Eustis. While the Revolutionary, Civil and World War Soldiers have long passed, their histories are preserved under the streets on which today's heroes travel.