A local garden club is taking initiative to honor military families and veterans in Tullahoma.
The Shady Grove Garden Club, the local chapter of the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs, has embarked on a mission to install two memorial markers inside History Park in downtown Tullahoma in order to pay tribute to those who have served the country and their families.
Sandy Sebren, the chairman of the Blue Star and Gold Star Memorial Project, spoke of her club’s mission at the Feb. 25 meeting of the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen, hoping to encourage more citizen support.
According to Sebren, the Blue Star and Gold Star Memorials are sponsored by the National Garden Clubs. There are currently 73 different installed memorials in the State of Tennessee, Sebren said. The nearest of these memorials is currently located in Winchester at the Franklin County Annex building on Dinah Shore Boulevard.
According to the National Garden Clubs website, the Blue Star Memorial Markers project began in New Jersey in 1944. The New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs planted 8,000 dogwood trees as living memorials to veterans of World War II.
The next year, the National Council of State Garden Clubs adopted the program and changed it to begin a Blue Star Highway system that covered thousands of miles across the continental United States, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.
In this system, a large metal Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker was placed at strategic locations along the way. Over time, non-highway markers were added in order to honor all men and women who have served in the nation’s armed services. The non-highway markers, such as the ones the Shady Grove Garden Club is planning, are frequently placed in national cemeteries, parks, veterans’ facilities and gardens, according to the National Garden Club website.
According to Sebren, the current plan includes having the markers installed on a 14-foot circular concrete pad on the Northeast side of History Park, near the intersection of East Grundy and Northeast Atlantic streets.
“The site for the memorials has been chosen to be History Park,” she said. “This has been carefully thought through and prayed about.”
The location of the memorials is a strategic nod to the history of Tullahoma as a main train depot for families living in Camp Forrest, she told The News.
“These memorials will stand for our time in our country’s history when young men and women came by the thousands to Tullahoma by railroad to equip, to go and to serve in the defense for our country,” she said.
A walkway made up of engraved brick pavers would connect the existing sidewalk in History Park to the installed concrete pad, according to the current plan. The bricks making up the walkway would be engraved with the name, rank and service branch of the service member being honored or remembered, Sebren said.
According to Sebren, the Blue Star marker would bear the inscription, “A tribute to the armed forces who have defended United States of America.” The Gold Star marker would bear an inscription for those who have died in service to the nation.
“A tribute to Gold Star families whose loved ones paid the ultimate price defending the United States of America,” is what the Gold Star marker would read.
The markers themselves have already been purchased through a collaborative effort between the Shady Grove Garden Club, American Legion Post 43 and the Tullahoma Historical Preservation Society, Sebren told the board.
The groups would also like to install a lighted, 20-foot flagpole at the site, Sebren added. All of components would be paid for through donations.
The pavers that would make up the walkway will be available for purchase at $120 each. The proceeds from these pavers would also go toward the installation costs of the memorial.
Sebren also gave a rough timeline for the completion of the two memorials. According to Sebren, the first phase would incorporate the memorials themselves and should be finished by May 29 – Memorial Day.
Once the first phase of the memorials is complete, Sebren said any living World War II veterans would be invited to serve as honored guests for the dedication of the memorials.
The second phase of the memorials, she said, would see the walkway being laid with the engraved pavers. That portion of the project should be completed by Nov. 11, 2019 – Veterans Day.
The memorial plans are still in the early stages, Sebren said. With enough community support, however, she said the dream could become a reality.
“We are a small garden club, and this is a big project, but we have been amazed with the support and encouragement we have received from the citizens of Tullahoma,” said Sebren.
While there was some debate between Sebren and city officials as to the permanent location of the memorial, according to Sebren, Mayor Lane Curlee told The News Sebren made “such a persuasive argument” during the board meeting that he felt the memorial should indeed be located within History Park.
Anyone looking for more information on the project can contact Sandy Sebren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.