By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Veterans, city officials and Port Angeles Garden Cub members will install and dedicate a Blue Star plaque at 11 a.m. April 4, in honor of all of those who served in the military — past, present and future.
The memorial will take the form of a large plaque on a post just outside the Liberty Bell pavilion at Veterans Park, 217 S. Lincoln St.
Garden club members will create a flower garden around the plaque, including annual and perennial plantings, once the sign is fully installed, said Bernice Cook, chairman of the Garden Club memorial marker committee.
The president of the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs, Brynn Tavasci, has been invited and is expected to attend the unveiling, and local city and county leaders have been invited, Cook said.
The Garden Club has spent four years planning and raising funds for the $1,300 metal plaque and its $1,500 shipping cost, she said.
Club members held plant sales and other events, and they finally had enough money to finish the project in 2013.
The Blue Star Memorial Program, a 70-year-old National Garden Clubs program to honor members of the armed forces and veterans, is an offshoot of an even older tradition: the service banner.
Since 1917, the blue star has been used as a symbol of those who have a family member serving in the armed forces, active duty or reserves, during wartime.
Blue star service banners and flags, which feature a blue star on a white field with a red border, are approved and regulated by the Army Institute of Heraldry for parents, siblings, spouses or children of military members, or for businesses and organizations who have employees or members who serve.
One star appears on the flag for each family member or employee on active duty or in the reserves.
Similar flags with a silver star indicate an injured family service member, and a gold star represents those who died while serving in the military during time of war.
The Blue Star Memorial Program began in 1944 when the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs planted 8,000 dogwood trees as a living memorial to veterans of World War II.
In 1945, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and began the Blue Star Highway system — designating thousands of miles of roads across the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii as Blue Star Highways.
Large metal Blue Star Memorial Highway markers were placed at locations along designated routes, mostly in the 1940s and '50s.
The program was expanded to memorial markers at national cemeteries, parks, veterans facilities and gardens, and to include all men and women who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed services of the United States.
In the past decade, garden clubs across the country have brought back the old tradition, for a new generation of veterans coming home from war, said Patty Wheatley, president of the Port Angeles Garden Club.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.