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WAYNESBURG -- Skies were grey and rain was falling last Wednesday, but the mood wasn't blue for a Blue Star Memorial Marker dedication ceremony.
The program, originally scheduled to be held in the village park where the marker stands, was moved to St. James due to inclement weather.
"We're not going to allow a little rain dampen our spirits," said Sally Patterson-McCall of the Mohawk Trail Garden Club.
The Waynesburg marker is the newest dedicated along Route 183. Markers have also been dedicated this year in Minerva and Malvern.
Celine Hallier of the Garden Club of Ohio explained the origin of the Blue Star Memorial Marker program at the ceremony. She said it began at the end of World War II when the Garden Club of New Jersey planted thousands of Dogwood trees along a 5 1/2 mile stretch in Union County.
That project then went nationwide and roads later became the Blue Star Highway System. The markers are named after the blue star of service on flags hung in homes of families with a son or daughter serving in the military.
"When I see a marker, I don't just see a cast aluminum structure with words on it," Hallier said. "I see an aviator who flew missions during World War II, who at 90 years old stands up straight as an arrow when the national anthem is played. I see hats signifying what ship, what battalion, what conflict someone served in. I see Vietnam veterans who now come out of the shadows to receive their thank you for service."
Members of Boy Scout Troop 157 helped begin the ceremony. They stood at the front of the St. James pavilion holding flags for each branch of military service. The Sandy Valley High School marching band played the national anthem as the Sandy Valley American Legion Post 432 presented colors.
Vocalist John Hayward led well-known patriotic songs including "God Bless the USA and "God Bless America".
Rev. Steve Smith later delivered a moving military tribute.
"We live in one of the very greatest nations on Earth," he said, "and I believe that God has chosen us to be a special people, to be a special nation and to exemplify many of the Biblical qualities and principles by which this nation was founded."
Smith said the subject of markers originated in scriptures. He said God left a marker when Joshua led a battle in Jericho.
He also spoke about those willing to "sacrifice of their life, sometimes of their family and maybe sometimes of their own prosperity."
"Because there is a price to freedom," Smith said. "There is a price that generations before us have paid. There is a price that the present generations pays, there's a price that you and I may have to pay here and now. But we are preserving something for the future, and if we are to ever preserve it for the future then we understand that even our young people need to know about our monuments planted there for the past. They need to say and to recognize with great honor those who are currently serving. And they need to understand the deep respect that we all have as Americans."
Smith later said it is important to teach younger generations about the freedoms that Americans are granted and the work it took to get them.
"The fact I can stand up here in front of you on this day is part of the great freedoms we have in this nation, and there are many veterans who have laid down their lives that we may have the freedom of religion and religious liberty," he said. "That we may have the freedom to express our own opinions. That we can agree to disagree and even be mature enough to sometimes do that agreeably out of respect for one another even in our differences."
Mayor Dough Welch thanked the Mohawk Trail Garden Club for its efforts.
"Not only will this marker pay tribute to the current members of our village who are now serving," Welch said, "it will also pay tribute to those who have served or will serve to protect our nation's freedom."
Father Joe Zamary delivered a benediction, and Post 432 fired a gun salute. The playing of Taps concluded the ceremony.
Linda Lange of the Mohawk Trail Garden Club and Diane Patris of the Canton Garden Center helped lay a wreath over the marker after the ceremony.