LINGLE – On a breezy Saturday, punctuated by the sounds of afternoon traffic and passing trains, Lions Park here officially became home to a memorial to veterans and active service members.
Sponsored jointly by the Grassroots Garden Club, Lingle-Fort Laramie Lions Club and the local American Legion post, a dozen or so residents gathered to dedicate a Blue Star Memorial By-Way marker. It makes the 10th such designation in the state, just behind a similar ceremony in Casper earlier in the day.
“Thank you to all the service men and women who’ve made the sacrifices so all Americans may enjoy the freedoms we do,” Barb Yates, Blue Star Program chair from the Wyoming Federation of Garden Clubs, said as she led the dedication. “I chose to help honor veterans as I come from a family of veterans.”
The Blue Star Memorial program started out much differently, when the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs planted some 8,000 live dogwood trees to honor and remember World War II veterans in 1944. Blue stars had become “iconic” during the war, Yates said, indicating the family of someone serving in the military on the homes where they were displayed. So the national garden club took over the program in 1945, installing monuments and markers featuring the blue star around the country to honor living veterans and
“The program has been expanded to include markers and memorial highways,” she said. “The markers are used in national cemeteries, parks, veteran facilities and public gardens.”
In her travels around the country, Yates said she’s had the opportunity to view many of the almost 3,000 Blue Star markers and memorials currently standing in all 50 states. One such encounter left a lasting impression.
“On a senior bus trip once, when we got off the bus in a little town in Pennsylvania, I stepped off the bus and facing me was a Blue Star Memorial marker,” Yates said. “It was just so great to see across the nation what garden clubs are doing to honor our veterans.”
The Lingle marker has been in the works for about 18 months, said Kayce Weber, president of the Grassroots Garden Club, the sponsoring group. Blue Star markers are always sponsored by local garden clubs, which are charged with raising money and securing a location for the installation.
“I think Lingle is honoring the people who served and the people from the community who also served,” Weber said. “It’s nice to know, when people see the (marker), they’ll say, ‘Oh, they’re honoring their veterans.’”
Placing the marker was a joint effort between the local garden club and the city of Lingle, said council member Greg Asa. The area designated Lions Park is city property and crews did some rearranging of existing markers remembering the Oregon Trail and a ‘Welcome to Lingle’ sign, as well as pouring a new concrete slab to support all three.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Asa said. “It’s a nice addition to the Lions Park here to recognize
“The work of the garden clubs establishing these markers across the nation is a tremendous benefit to our communities,” he said. “We’re glad the Legion, the Garden Clubs and the Lions Club took this upon themselves, to go to this effort, to collect the fund and to establish
Bill Carr, a former city employee and long-time member of both the local Lions Club and Legion post, built the concrete support for the Blue Star plaque. The project started in earnest last year, when Carr was Lions president and the club was approached by another member who was also involved in the Garden Club.
Service projects of this type are second nature to the Lions Club, Carr said. The funds were available, but the Lions thought it would be a good joint project and challenged the local Legion to help finance the approximately $500 cost of the memorial.
“This was an ideal place,” he said. “Between the Oregon Trail marker and the ‘Welcome to Lingle’ marker with the Lions Club sign, it was a perfect place.
“And this was doubly rewarding to me – I’ve been a member of the Legion for 34 years and the Lions for 23 years,” Carr said. “And several years ago, when I worked for the town of Lingle, I used to mow this little park. It’s been a real pleasure to take part in this project.”