A Blue Star Memorial marker will be formally dedicated at 10 AM on June 14 in La Porte City. The marker sits along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, adjacent to Veterans Memorial Hall at 302 Cedar Street.
The Blue Star Memorial program dates back to World War II and honors service men and women. The program began with the planting of 8,000 Dogwood trees by the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs in 1944 as a living memorial to veterans of World War II. In 1945, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and began a Blue Star Highway system, which covers thousands of miles across the Continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. A large metal Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker was placed at appropriate locations along the way.
The program was expanded to include all men and women who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed services of the United States. Memorial Markers and By-Way markers were added to the Highway Markers, to be used at locations such as National cemeteries, parks, veteran’s facilities and gardens.
The Blue Star became an icon in World War II and was seen on flags and banners in homes for sons and daughters away at war, as well as in churches and businesses
A short history of the Blue Star Memorial Highways by the National Garden Clubs explains how the idea became a national program:
“At the close of World War II, the National Council, like other public-spirited groups, was seeking a suitable means of honoring servicemen and women. It was agreed, that as Garden Clubs, it would be better to help beautify and preserve the country the men had fought for than to build stone monuments. The New Jersey clubs had just finished beautifying a section of one of the New Jersey highways as a War Memorial, working with the New Jersey Highway Commissioner, Spencer Miller, Jr., when Mr. Miller, a guest speaker at the annual convention of the National Council in 1945, suggested that this program be projected on a nationwide basis. This was just the kind of project the National Council had been looking for.
Using the New Jersey project as its model, the National Council made a study of the inter-regional highways of the United States. A Blue Star Highway system was outlined, consisting of one east-west and seven north-south highways. (Today we have many more.) Highway Commissioners were informed of the plan as were also the Garden Clubs in each state, and all were invited to participate. Every State President was asked to secure collaboration of the State Highway Department before undertaking a Blue Star project, as this was considered requisite to the success of the plan. A uniform marker was adopted to show memorialization, the design of which was a gift from Mrs. Frederic Kellogg, founder of National Council.
The history makes clear that the goal went beyond placing markers, ‘The project was organized as a demonstration of roadside beautification, to show what could be accomplished through united strength, as a protest against billboards, to educate the public to higher standards of roadside development, and to determine how the National Council could best work with the civil authorities for major achievement.’
The original concept was expanded to honor all men and women who had served, were serving, or would serve in the armed services of the United States. According to the Blue Star Memorial Program website, “Memorial Markers and By-Way markers were added to the Highway Markers, to be used at locations such as National cemeteries, parks, veteran’s facilities and gardens.”
~Courtesy of the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation