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Blue Star Marker ceremony honors veterans, active military
Each Veterans Day, Americans honor the men and women who have served in the armed forces and defended America so well.
From our first troops who fought to help America gain independence from England in the 1700s, to our present-day troops serving in Iran and Afghanistan, our armed forces have protected our rights to be a free, democratic nation.
This year, in honor of Veterans Day, Yuma Garden Club will be placing a Blue Star By-Way Memorial Marker at the Alma Schott Rose Garden, located in front of Yuma Civic Center. The public is invited to attend the ceremony held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 15.
The Marine Corps Color Guard will present the colors and military tributes will be given by Col. Kuckuk, Marine Corps Air Station, and Maj. Hutsell, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. Art Lawrey, CPO retired Navy, will unveil the marker, and Mayor Krieger will accept the marker.
Irene Jensen, representative for Arizona Federated Garden Clubs, Inc. and State Blue Star Marker chairman, will present a history of the Blue Star Marker project.
Solos will be sung by Wendy Turner, and taps will be played by Terry Greene. Cal Kelley, Yuma Garden Club president, will officiate at the dedication.
“We are proud to honor our veterans with a Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker, and we salute all our active and retired military in Yuma for their dedication to America,” said Cal Kelley, Yuma Garden Club president. “We appreciate the sacrifices our military make to help keep us a free, democratic country.”
Jane Buck, chairman of the Blue Star Marker committee for Yuma Garden Club, said, “Placement of this Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker helps increase awareness of the importance our military plays in defending our country and our rights as a democratic nation. When the public attends events held at Yuma Civic Center, they can enjoy the rose garden Yuma Garden Club sponsors and the Blue Star Marker.”
National Garden Clubs, Inc. has placed Blue Star Markers” in all 50 states to honor our armed forces. These markers are metal plaques that have a blue star at the top and the words “A Tribute to the Armed Forces of America” inscribed below the star. Garden clubs place Blue Star Memorial Highway Markers along our nation's highways and a smaller plaque, the Blue Star Memorial Marker, in veterans cemeteries or veterans hospitals. The Blue Star By-Way Memorial Marker is a third plaque sized to be placed in civic gardens, parks, and historic sites.
Begun in 1945, this program is one of the longest-running projects sponsored by National Garden Clubs, Inc.
Use of blue stars to honor our military began during World War I when Army Capt. Robert Queissner designed a rectangular banner 9 inches wide and 14 inches long. The banner had a white field, red border and two blue stars in the center representing his two sons who were fighting in the war. He hung the banner in his front window where passers-by could see it and remember his sons and their dedication to keeping America free.
His idea of honoring military family members serving in the war with a blue star banner soon caught on. By World War II, the blue star banner was hung in thousands of windows across America. If a family member was killed, the blue star was replaced with a gold one; and if a family member was injured or disabled, a silver star replaced the blue one. These banners can still be ordered online.
In 1944, the New Jersey State Council of Garden Clubs voted to beautify a stretch of U.S. Highway 22 with 8,000 dogwood trees in memory of American servicemen and women who had given their lives to protect our country during World War I and World War II. The Legislature of New Jersey voted to name this piece of highway Blue Star Drive in honor of the blue star banners flown in so many windows during both world wars.
In 1945, National Council of Garden Clubs, Inc. chose to adopt New Jersey's Blue Star Drive as a national project. They changed the name to Blue Star Memorial Highway Project and began placing Blue Star Memorial Highway Markers along highways across America. The area around each plaque was landscaped by the garden club sponsoring the memorial. Thus began a “ribbon of living memorial plantings across America” in honor of our troops.
When asked about the program, Val Colvin, a longtime member of Pecan Grove Garden Club, said, “Because of increased U.S. military activity during the last few years, garden clubs throughout the nation have added more Blue Star Markers to show our troops we support their efforts and appreciate their sacrifices. There are six Blue Star Memorial Highway Markers around the state, with several more in the planning stage.”
Federated Garden Clubs of Yuma salute our active and retired military and encourage the public to attend the unveiling of the latest Arizona Blue Star Marker sponsored by Yuma Garden Club.
Karen Bowen is a master gardener and member of Yuma Garden Club. This column is sponsored by the Federated Garden Clubs of Yuma.