BRIDGEWATER-ROXBURY — Residents of Bridgewater and Roxbury gathered Thursday, June 14, Flag Day, in their respective towns to celebrate two new Blue Star Memorial Marker signs and two Cherokee Princess White Dogwood trees placed to honor the individuals who have served, are serving and will serve in all branches of the Armed Forces of the United States.
Members of the Roxbury-Bridgewater Garden Club hosted the two dedication ceremonies, which began at 11 a.m. in the center of Bridgewater in front of the Capt. Burnham home on Route 133 and continued at noon in the Dorothy Diebold Memorial Garden near Roxbury Town Hall on North Street.
A reception followed in the gazebo adjacent to the Diebold Garden to honor the patriots of Roxbury and Bridgewater who are serving, have served and will serve in the future.
In addition to garden club members, invited guests included town officials, state and national Federated Garden Club officers, the Hilltop Singers of the Bridgewater Senior Center, the children of Booth and Burnham elementary schools, an honor color guard and an armed services veteran who played taps.
The Blue Star Memorial program was started in 1944 when a garden club in New Jersey sought to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces by creating a memorial sign decorated with a blue star, a symbol often displayed on homes where sons and daughters were away at war.
That year, the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs erected a Blue Star Memorial sign and planted 8,000 dogwood trees along a five mile stretch of highway as a living memorial to veterans of World War II.
The Federated Garden Clubs adopted the program in 1945 and began a Blue Star Highway system that now covers thousands of miles across all 50 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.
While originally intended to honor veterans of World War II, today’s program includes all men and women who have ever served in the armed forces.
Connecticut’s first Blue Star Highway was dedicated in 1950, a stretch of I-95 between New Haven and the Rhode Island border.
With the addition of the new Blue Star Memorial markers in Bridgewater and Roxbury, the state now has two highway markers, two byway markers and 10 memorial markers.
Bridgewater’s new Memorial Marker is located in front of the Capt. Burnham Homestead on Main Street South, between the Burnham School and the Bridgewater Historical Society. Roxbury’s is located on Route 67 between Great Oak Cemetery and Town Hall.
Both ceremonies began with a welcome by Bridgewater-Roxbury Garden Club member and Blue Star Memorial Project Chair Adrienne Caruso and co-chairs Audrey Wilkicki and Ceil Santillo.
In Bridgewater, First Selectman Curtis Read spoke briefly on behalf of the town; in Roxbury, Selectman Jim Conway did the same.
A color guard was provided at both events by David Perkins, Bill Baldwin and Mike Chuckta, members of the Sons of the American Revolution, who appeared in Colonial dress.
An invocation by the Rev. Robert Woodroofe of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church preceded a flag-raising and Pledge of Allegiance in Bridgewater.
In Roxbury, the Rev. David Peters of Roxbury Congregational Church noted that those present had gathered “not to glorify war, but to imagine sacrifices made and peace desired” and also recalled the service of Revolutionary War officer Seth Warner, 1743-1784, “one of our patriots and a child of Roxbury.”
Several guests traveled from Massachusetts, including Andrea Little, National Garden Clubs Blue Star and Gold Star Families Memorial Marker chairman.
In dedicating the two markers, Ms. Little said there are now 3,085 Blue Star and Gold Star Memorial Markers in the U.S. She noted the sacrifices made by veterans, and said they should be honored “not only today, but every day,” and that they will be remembered “with every drumbeat on the Fourth of July” and until “the last lingering note of ‘Taps,’ lest we forget all who helped to keep us safe.”
Connecticut guests included several representatives from the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, as well as representatives from the New Milford American Legion who served in World War II, the Korean War and in Vietnam.
Krista Fiorini, Connecticut Blue Star and Gold Star Families Memorial Marker chair, shared a brief history of the markers.
In Bridgewater, under the direction of music teacher Jennifer Doiron, the Burnham School Band played “Yankee Doodle,” Connecticut’s state song. Students of Burham School led the crowd in a renditon of “This Land Is Your Land.”
In Roxbury, Booth Free School music teacher Jacob Bartfield led third, fourth and fifth grade students in an instrumental version of “This Land Is Your Land” and a vocal rendition of “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
At both ceremonies, Jean Kavanek led the Bridgewater Senior Center Hilltop Singers in “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.”
Following benedictions by the Rev. Peter Hammond of Bridgewater Congregational Church and Rev. Peters in Roxbury, each ceremony concluded with a moving rendition of “Taps” by Bugler Jeffrey McBreairty, who trained the current bugler at Arlington National Cemetery.
Adrienne Caruso told Voices she was pleased that the garden club agreed to adopt the program and felt honored to serve as chair. She was particularly happy that so many children were able to participate.
“Once we started planning, things just snowballed,” she said. “When I spoke with the school principal, Cathy Colella, she said it was important that kids get to know about civics.
“That’s something we can all agree on,” she said.