New Mayfield memorial honors veterans, families

Courtesy of the Laurel Oak Garden Club

Howard Smith, a member of the Laurel Oak Garden Club and American Legion Post 26, uncrates the Blue Star Memorial Marker that will be dedicated Friday in Harmon Park.

A new Mayfield memorial paying tribute to military families will be dedicated Friday.

The Laurel Oak Garden Club and American Legion Post 26 joined forces to bring a Blue Star Memorial Marker to Harmon Park.

"This Blue Star Memorial Marker is a project and theme of the National Garden Club, and when I took over as president here of the Laurel Oak Garden Club I realized Mayfield didn't have one," club president D-J Swant said.

The unveiling and dedication ceremony will be at 2 p.m. at the park, located at the intersection of U.S. 45 and James Street. Local, state and national garden club representatives are scheduled to attend, Swant said. The Patriot Guard Riders are also expected to attend, unless their services are required at a veteran's funeral that day, she said.

Swant said she believes the new memorial will complement existing memorials to women veterans and those of World War II and the Vietnam War already in Harmon Park, where the Laurel Oak Garden Club maintains the landscaping. She also believes it is a way to honor veterans of more recent wars not already memorialized there.

"All those who served and their families, this is honoring them all," she said. "I don't think the country does enough to honor those serving, and I really think it's important that we do."

According to the American Legion's website, it is an American tradition to display a banner depicting a blue star in the window of a home where a loved one is serving in the military.

The blue star service banner was designed and patented in 1917 by World War I Army Capt. Robert L. Queisser of Ohio, whose two sons served on the front line. Recognition for it was read into the Congressional record in 1917 by an Ohio congressman after the state adopted its use.

During World War II, the Department of War issued specifications on the manufacture of the flag, as well as guidelines for its use. When a loved one is killed in military service, the blue star is replaced with a gold one. Although not widely used during the time of the Korean and Vietnam wars, some American Legion chapters began providing banners to military families across the nation following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted its Blue & Gold Star Memorial Program near the close of World War II to honor those veterans. It eventually expanded to honor all veterans and their families.

The program includes a Blue Star Highway System covering thousands of miles across the United States and marked with highway markers. Mayfield's American Legion post chipped in with the Laurel Oak Garden Club to buy Mayfield's marker as each of the new markers costs more than $1,500, according to the National Garden Club website.

American Legion Post 26 Commander Wendell Guge said the post was glad to contribute toward the memorial.

"It's good for our community, and it's giving back in to families who have also sacrificed," he said. "That's what the American Legion is about, taking care of the veteran families and trying to make sure the information is out there."

He specifically talked about the importance of memorials as a way to preserve history.

"You can't forget what's already been done," Guge said. "You can't forget the ladies and gentlemen who have sacrificed, the families who have sacrificed. It goes back to the one main saying: freedom is not free. Somebody has paid a price for our freedom."