Few things can bring together the North Carolina Garden Club, the N.C. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Armed Forces like the creation and dedication of a Blue Star Memorial Highway.
These groups came together to celebrate the April 28 unveiling of Iredell County's new Blue Star Memorial Highway marker, a goal the Garden Clubs of Mooresville, Troutman and Statesville, among other groups, have been working toward for about five years.
The clubs raised money to create the marker in ways such as selling bulbs, collecting cans to sell and donations.
Each club agreed to provide $500 toward the effort.
The marker is located at the rest area on Interstate 77 southbound between mile markers 37 and 38 and includes sections of the highway in Troutman and Mooresville.
The goal of a Blue Star Memorial is to create a well-kept section of highway with a marker honoring U.S. servicemen and women. The Iredell County rest area memorial is North Carolina's 15th; the first in the state was dedicated in 1949 by the Raleigh Garden Club, according to Garden Club North Carolina's Blue Star Chairman Juanita Daber.
Iredell County Manager Joel Mashburn, a Vietnam veteran, told those at dedication that 17,000 veterans live in Iredell County. This memorial recognizes the contributions of these individuals.
The ceremony included a Tribute of Flowers by local youth garden clubs, the Troutman Green Growers and the Little Ladybugs.
State Garden Clubs have been creating memorial highways for decades. The first Blue Star Memorial Highway was created to honor veterans of the World Wars in New Jersey in 1944. It was a six-mile section of highway where the club planted thousands of dogwood trees and banned billboards with the help of the state legislature.
Inspired, garden clubs all over the country adopted the Blue Star Project. The blue star has been a symbol of heroism and bravery for centuries and was used as such by both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to recognize soldiers.
During World War II, family members of those serving would sometimes display a blue star in their windows to remember them.
The official Garden Club dedication begins, "We are here to pay tribute to our Armed Forces. While we go about our daily lives or while we sleep, the men and women in our Armed Forces fly our skies, sail our seas and guard our shores, ensuring our safety," and ends with a declaration of pride that the National Garden Clubs have again perpetuated "our Blue Star Memorial Program with this marker."
The Mooresville, Troutman and Statesville Garden Clubs are also involved in activities other than the Blue Star Memorial Marker Project and doing plantings along highways.
They have planted gardens at the Mooresville Library and Serenity House, a Mooresville hospice. Another major project is selling calendars to raise money to provide scholarships to students pursuing agriculture-related studies. The clubs are providing six $3,000 scholarships for the 2011-12 school year.