As you drive around town, you may see a small white flag, bordered in red, with either a blue or a gold star in the middle and gold fringe on the bottom. These Blue/Gold Star Flags are usually hung from a window since they are smaller than normal flags and signify that the resident has an immediate family member serving in the military.
In 1917, Army Captain Robert Queissner wanted to make a simple flag that signified his two sons’ service in World War I. Only three days later, the American War Mothers organization formed and began displaying Captain Queissner’s flag in their windows. Sometimes the flags may have two or three stars (signifying two or three children serving in the military). Because so many military lives were lost in World War I, a new flag was developed. Mothers who had lost their sons in World War I began sewing a gold star over the blue star. The flag symbolized pride, love, and hope and became very popular during World War II. It returned to popularity during the Gulf War and continues today.
Only members of the immediate family (wife, husband, mother, father, stepparent, children, brothers, and sisters) of an active duty service man or woman may fly this flag and only during times of war or hostilities.
National Garden Club, Inc.
The Blue Star Memorial Program honors all women and men who serve in the United States Armed Services. It began in 1944 when the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs planted 8,000 Dogwood trees to honor the veterans of World War II. In 1945, the National Garden Clubs (NGC) adopted a program to honor members of the armed
services across the country – the Blue Star Memorial Highway Markers. Today, these markers are visible across the country including Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to highways, memorial markers are located at cemeteries, Veterans Administration Centers and other appropriate civic locations. In Wisconsin, Blue Star Markers are seen across the state from Superior to Milwaukee and Beloit and many places in between. All Blue Star Markers are funded by donations of garden club members. The members often tend gardens around the markers.
The Gold Star Families Markers is a new initiative of the NGC. Since World War I, a gold star flag hung in a home indicated the loss of a loved one serving in the armed services. To honor these fallen heroes, the NGC and WGCF coordinate with donations of Gold Star families to erect a Gold Star Marker in their loved one’s memory. The first Gold Star marker in the state was dedicated in October 2016 in Sheboygan at the Sheboygan Veterans Memorial in Taylor Park. The Ivy League Garden Club was instrumental in its installation.
Purchase prices for Markers and appurtenances are as follows:
- Memorial/Highway Marker with 7 foot post including shipping $1,410
- Byway Marker including UPS shipping $470
- Replacement post $325
- Refurbish a Memorial/Highway Marker (post not included) including round trip freight $800
- Cap repair and refurbish a Memorial/Highway Marker (post not including) including round trip freight $900
Highway and Memorial Markers cost $1,410 By Way Markers cost $1,410. Order forms can be downloaded from NGC’s website, gardenclub.org. Parties interested in erecting a Marker do not have to be a member of NGC; however, Markers can only be obtained from NGC.
According to NGC records to date, more than 3,000 Blue Star Markers, Memorial Markers and By Way Markers have been dedicated nationwide.
Thirteen Markers have been erected in Wisconsin:
City Location Dedicated Sponsor*
- Ashland 247 Lakeshore Drive West 1955
- Beloit 1590 Riverside Drive 5/30/51
- Elm Grove 1195 Legion Drive Elm Grove Garden Club
- Hurley Intersection of Third Avenue and USH 151 1950’s
- Manitowoc S.S. Badger Car Ferry Site 1994
- McFarland Babcock County Park 10/02/52 West Side Garden Club
- Milwaukee Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center 11/08/07
- Milwaukee Forest Home Cemetery 11/02/13 WGCF-Milw. District
- Portage 2126 New Pinery Road 11/ /52
- Rothschild 211 North Grand Avenue 11/ /50 River Valley District
- Sheboygan 3099 Wilgus Avenue 10/11/52 Ivy League Garden Club
- Superior Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center 5/17/52
- Westfield USH 151 North rest area four miles North of Westfield 1950’s
Gold Star Memorial Markers
- Sheboygan/Taylor Park 10/15/2016 – Ivy League Garden Club
- Wisconsin State Capitol 8/22/2018
Patti Smith, the president of America’s Gold Star Families, unveils a new Gold Star memorial marker with the help of Gold Star children Aug. 22 at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. The Wisconsin Garden Club Federation worked with state officials to dedicate the Gold Star memorial marker in honor of Wisconsin’s Gold Star Families. The marker is the first of its kind on the grounds of a state capitol in the United States. Wisconsin National Guard photo by Capt. Joe Trovato
Markers in Wisconsin are sponsored by WGCF and Wisconsin Department of Transportation;some are also sponsored by local garden clubs and other community organizations
NGC’s Blue Star Memorial Program is expensive but exceedingly worthwhile. Since many of Wisconsin’s Markers include gardens, annual maintenance is necessary in addition to refurbishing the Marker itself when necessary. Erection of a Marker also involves coordination with NGC, WGCF and Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation. Any garden club or organization located within Wisconsin interested in honoring its local veterans with a Marker should contact chairs Linda and Chuck McCafferty. For general information on this project, please visit the NGC website.