In March of 2006, an unabashed group of homophobic missionaries from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, which spread their vile message at military funerals across the country, targeted the service for Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder in Westminster, and the fact that he was straight meant nothing to them.
"I have 11 children,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper of the group, “I feel so sorry for that child, but it's too late to discuss him. He's in hell."
Snyder's father sued the hatemongers for invasion of privacy and emotional distress, but four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of their free speech.
"When you stand 30 feet from the main vehicle entrance of a church and hold a sign depicting two men having anal intercourse, that's not free speech," said Albert Snyder.
Now, as Matthew Snyder's classmates from Westminster High School prepare to celebrate their 15-year class reunion, one of them approached Maryland Delegate Haven Shoemaker with the idea of dedicating a portion of Route 97 next to the school in Snyder's honor, and he says the State Highway Administration and the Governor's Office jumped at the idea.
"The focus is going to be fixed on what it should have been all along and that's the service of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder," said Shoemaker.
On Friday, the formal dedication will come at 5:45 on Ruby Field just before Westminster High takes on Francis Scott Key High in a football game, which will be dedicated to Snyder, his family and his classmates---a rightful tribute to a fallen Marine wrongfully targeted by a message of hate upon his death.
"I'm hoping that with this dedication that we're doing on Friday, wherein we express the gratitude of Carroll County for Matthew Snyder's service and heroism, that they get a little bit of closure from that," said Shoemaker.