EAGLE POINT — While a marker at a city wayside might seem a small gesture, state Rep. Sal Esquivel said recognizing men and women who have worn the country's uniform is one of the most important things a community can offer.
A Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy from 1969 to 1970, the Medford Republican said he remembers all too well the tension and disrespect veterans of Vietnam faced when they returned home from war.
Esquivel will serve as master of ceremonies for the dedication of a Blue Star Memorial Marker at the Harnish Wayside Park in Eagle Point, slated to start at 10 a.m. Saturday in observance of Armed Forces Day.
"We've got 10 of these in Southern Oregon, and they're really good recognition for our veterans, and they recognize members of all the armed forces," he said.
"We dedicate and do memorials on the highways and on these markers because we can't forget that if it weren't for these people we wouldn't have a lot of the freedoms we have. People sometimes take our freedoms for granted and don't realize that someone gave blood and sweat, and a lot of times their lives, for these things that we have."
Started in 1944, the Blue Star Memorial Program began with the planting of 8,000 dogwood trees by the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs as a living memorial to veterans of World War II.
The blue star was a familiar icon during World War II, when families would place blue stars on flags and banners in tribute to sons and daughters who were away at war.
In 1945, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program on a bigger scale, expanding it to recognize all the armed forces, and adding Blue Star highway and byway markers over the years.
Eagle Point Garden Club member Ida Pruitt said the marker location, at the corner of South Royal Avenue and Highway 62, was a perfect spot to dedicate the familiar blue star.
She said her hope is that the star will "help people to remember."
Saturday's program will include the dedication of the marker, presentation of colors and playing of bagpipes.
Pruitt said city officials provided installation and landscape assistance, while garden club members did fundraising to pay for the marker.
"We decided on this location because Highway 62 is a veterans highway, and the National Cemetery is there in Eagle Point, too," Pruitt said.
"It's just really important that people take the time to remember what all we have because of these men and women who fought for our country."
Added Esquivel, "It's so important that we never let our veterans feel like they aren't supported. You can be against the war but never be against the warrior."
For more information on the Blue Star Marker program, see www.gardenclub.org/projects/ongoing-projects/blue-star-memorials.aspx.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.