Thanks to the National Cemetery Administration in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for sharing the story of how members of the Beaufort Council of Garden Clubs enhance the appearance of the Beaufort National Cemetery.
The story by Steve Muro, undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, was published in the July/August edition of the NCA News newsletter.
Seven clubs make up the Beaufort Council of Garden Clubs, currently led by Cynthia Curnes of Lady's Island: Beaufort, Camellia, Dataw, Lady's Island, Palmetto, Royal Pines and Sea Island.
Each of the garden clubs also keeps up a Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker around Beaufort. And they participate in the Wreaths Across America program at the National Cemetery each December.
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The Lowcountry Master Gardeners Association gave the garden clubs about 100 daffodil bulbs, which they planted in the National Cemetery on Boundary Street.
"A Long Tradition"
By Steve Muro
One in five VA national cemeteries -- beginning with Abraham Lincoln and ending with Zachary Taylor -- features a Blue Star Memorial marker like the one at Beaufort National Cemetery.
Many of the plaques have been in place for years, so you may never have given much thought to the program's purpose or its history.
Originally, the markers signified locations along Blue Star Highways -- a system of routes designated in honor of World War II Veterans. The blue star was adapted from a familiar wartime symbol used to identify households or businesses whose sons or daughters were serving in the Armed Forces.
The program was later expanded to recognize service men and women from all eras. Locations grew beyond highways, as well, to include parks, gardens, national cemeteries and other veterans' facilities.
The Blue Star Memorial Program is sponsored by the National Garden Clubs Inc., a nonprofit group headquartered in St. Louis. The largest volunteer gardening organization in the world, its membership includes nearly 5,800 garden clubs and more than 188,000 individuals nationwide. According to its website, the organization "provides education, resources and national networking opportunities for its members to promote the love of gardening, floral design, and civic and environmental responsibility."
We collaborate with National Garden Clubs member organizations around the country to beautify our national cemeteries.
One of the best examples of this partnership is in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, where Beaufort National Cemetery and the Beaufort Council of Garden Clubs joined forces last year to enhance the cemetery's appearance.
The seven area clubs that belong to the council work hand-in-hand with cemetery staff to plan and plant the flower beds for each season, with special emphasis on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. They began by installing shrubs for structure and perennials for color, and then add annuals for interest. The volunteer gardeners also prioritize use of native and drought-tolerant plants, to help director Don Owens and his crew promote sustainable operations.
In recognition of this very successful joint venture, the Garden Club of South Carolina recently presented its 2013 Achievement Award to the Beaufort Council, in the "civic improvement" category.
This ongoing project reflects the National Garden Clubs organization's desire to honor veterans not just with static memorials, but with living expressions of appreciation for their service in uniform.
And it is certainly in keeping with National Cemetery Administration's national shrine commitment, through which visitors depart feeling that the grounds, the gravesites and the environs of the cemetery are a beautiful and awe-inspiring tribute to those who gave much to preserve our freedom and our way of life.
You can learn more about the Blue Star Memorial Program and the National Garden Clubs, at www.gardenclub.org.
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