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'Proper and fitting' - Interchange named for fallen soldier

SNELLVILLE - Bill Ayers remembers countless times driving through the intersection of U.S. Highway 78 and Killian Hill/Bethany Church Road, taking his son to school, to church or to dinner.

But Tuesday, the day the intersection was named for Cpl. Jonathan Ryan Ayers, it was the memory of his son standing tall and proud in his dress uniform that overwhelmed the grieving father.

The dedication came nearly a year after the younger Ayers, 24, died during a gun battle in Wanat, Afghanistan.

"It's a great honor for Jon and we're so grateful," mother Suzanne Ayers said after the short ceremony to unveil signs proclaiming "Cpl. Jonathan Ryan Ayers Memorial Interchange." "It's still hard, but it's wonderful he's not being forgotten."

At the intersection, about 30 motorcycle riders from the Patriot Guard held flags, as Ayers family and friends huddled under a tent during a brief rain shower.

"Jonathan died for us. It was the least we could do to be here for him," said Jeff "JayDub" Goodiel, assistant state captain for the organization.

Goodiel, who lives in Norcross, has been ride captain for Ayers since his funeral. The organization also participated in a ceremony where the Army soldier, who was a commander of Shiloh's ROTC program, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

"We consider this a feel-good mission, because it's a way to honor Jonathan forever," Goodiel said.

Emotional about the event, Rep. Melvin Everson said he was glad to "bring a little joy to the family" by steering a resolution to name the intersection through the Legislature earlier this year.

"He will forever be in the hearts and minds of millions of Georgians," Everson said.

The resolution, read during Tuesday's ceremony, said, "It is only proper and fitting to honor this hero, who now stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow, and increase in its blessings."