The Blue Star Memorial Highways are a tribute to the armed forces that have defended the United States of America. The National Garden Clubs, Inc., is the parent organization for Blue Star Memorial Highways.
The idea dates to 1944 when the New Jersey State Council of Garden Clubs beautified a 5.5 mile stretch of U.S. 22 from Mountainside to North Plainfield. Approximately 8,000 dogwood trees were planted as a living memorial to the men and women in the Armed Forces from New Jersey. The Blue Star, taken from the blue star in the service flag, was chosen to symbolize the memorial because it was used during World War II on flags and homes of families that had a son or daughter in the service. The New Jersey Legislature approved a Joint Resolution on January 22, 1945, designating this highway "Blue Star Drive."
At the close of World War II, the National Council, like other public-spirited groups, was seeking a suitable means of honoring servicemen and women. It was agreed, that as Garden Clubs, it would be better to help beautify and preserve the country the men had fought for than to build stone monuments. The New Jersey clubs had just finished beautifying a section of one of the New Jersey highways as a War Memorial, working with the New Jersey Highway Commissioner, Spencer Miller, Jr., when Mr. Miller, a guest speaker at the annual convention of the National Council in 1945, suggested that this program be projected on a nationwide basis. This was just the kind of project the National Council had been looking for.
Using the New Jersey project as its model, the National Council made a study of the inter-regional highways of the United States. A Blue Star Highway system was outlined, consisting of one east-west and seven north-south highways. (Today we have many more.) Highway Commissioners were informed of the plan as were also the Garden Clubs in each state, and all were invited to participate. Every State President was asked to secure collaboration of the State Highway Department before undertaking a Blue Star project, as this was considered requisite to the success of the plan. A uniform marker was adopted to show memorialization, the design of which was a gift from Mrs. Frederic Kellogg, founder of National Council.
While it originally began to honor World War II veterans, it enlarged its mission. In 1951 it expanded to include all men and women, who had served, were serving or would serve in the armed forces of the United States. There are now three types of markers: the Memorial Highway Marker, found alongside roadways and at rest stops; the Blue Star Memorial Markers found at veterans' hospitals, national cemeteries, etc.; and Blue Star By-Way Markers which can be placed in any appropriate garden setting. Today there are more than 70,000 miles of highway designated as Blue Star Memorial Highways. Blue Star Memorial Markers are standing proudly along these thoroughfares nationwide. These markers are everywhere!