Blue Star Memorial Highway marker unveiled along Route 15

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette
Mark Verrico, Tioga County manager for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Sharon Brown, past president of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, unveil the Blue Star during the Blue Star Memorial Highway Dedication Marker Dedication at the Route 15 Welcome Center in Tioga on Wednesday.

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Mark Verrico, Tioga County manager for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Sharon Brown, past president of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania, unveil the Blue Star during the Blue Star Memorial Highway Dedication Marker Dedication at the Route 15 Welcome Center in Tioga on Wednesday.

TIOGA — With many guests in attendance wearing patriotic colors and enjoying star and striped cookies, the dedication ceremony for the new Blue Star Memorial Marker at the Route 15 Welcome Center had a patriotic atmosphere on Flag Day in Tioga County.

“The Blue Star Memorial Marker Program of National Garden Clubs Inc. began in 1945 as a tribute to the men and women serving in the Armed Forces during World War II,” said Chris Leskosky, president of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania.

She said the blue star was chosen as the centerpiece of the memorial sign because it symbolized the blue star in the window of a home or business when a family member was in military service.

Leskosky said the designation of a Blue Star Highway is achieved through petitions to state legislatures and cooperation with state highway departments. She said markers exist not only on highways but at veterans’ facilities, national cemeteries, parks and civic and historic sites throughout the country.

“All markers show our appreciation for those who currently serve, have served in the past or will service in the armed forces of the United States of America,” she said.

The marker was made possible by the efforts of the Heritage Garden Club of Troy, state Department of Transportation District 3-0 in Tioga County and the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania.

The marker itself reads that it is “a tribute to the Armed Forces who have defended the United States of America.”

John Keiffer, PennDOT facilities administrator, thanked everyone for attending the ceremony.

“We’re here to remember and honor our service members, to remember the sacrifices they made and the courage it takes to defend. Honor, duty and country,” he said. “The heroes we honor today came from all walks of life, but they all possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity.”

Keiffer said they were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times.

“We have awarded medals to many soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them, to honor them for their bravery,” he said. “But nothing can replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member.”

He said that he hoped the day’s service could help that loss.

“Today our gathering is just one small spark in a flame of pride that burns across the nation today and every day,” he said. “It’s not a lot, but one small wave to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.”

Barbara Andrus, president of the Heritage Garden Club of Troy, said she hoped those who saw the blue star that now stands at the state Welcome Center could know the appreciation the local area has for the military.

“I hope it means a great deal. I know there are a lot of people who travel this highway and, obviously, it’s a direct route to New York,” said Sharon Brown, past president of the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania. “We hope that everybody who stops here to see it appreciates what it means.”