What Is a Blue Star Memorial Highway?

Many of our nation's roadways are dedicated to those in the military who sacrificed so much.

Posted in , Jul 26, 2016

A Blue Star road marker in Long Island, NY.

I grew up taking family vacations—road trip style—in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We spent hours and hours traveling the highways in our VW bus. So Blue Star Highway markers were a familiar sight. But it wasn’t until our son enlisted in the military that I really made the connection to those antique brass signs and our military. 

Now every time I see one of those markers I feel pride—at the sacrifices made by our military and how our country recognizes this. Even though I understood that a designated highway was honoring our service men and women, it wasn’t until I dug a little deeper that I uncovered the full story.

The Blue Star Memorial Highway program was begun by the National Garden Clubs, Inc. (formally the National Council of State Garden Clubs) just after World War II, in 1946, as a way to honor the veterans who had served. They envisioned a “ribbon of living memorial plantings traversing every state.”

The first year after the program was adopted, seven states had placed markers. By the end of 1949, more than 33 states were participating, and more than 16,000 miles had been dedicated.

This program was expanded in 1981 to include a smaller, Memorial By-ways marker. These designations are always placed on public property, often at a rest area or welcome center. In addition the markers never honor a person. They are always dedicated to our armed forces as a whole. They also are always paired with plantings so that the memorial is a living one.

Now, every time I see a sign that denotes a section of road as a Blue Star Memorial, I smile. It feels good to know that so many of our roadways have been designated as a living memorial to those who have sacrificed so much.

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