By Kim Walter
On Friday, a Blue Star Memorial Marker will be dedicated on the campus of Randolph-Macon Academy in Front Royal.
The markers began in 1946 as a project of the National Garden Clubs as a way to honor men and women in service. The first marker was installed on a highway in Rhode Island in 1947, and since then, hundreds have been placed across the country, on highways, byways and points of interest.
By the end of November there will be 60 Blue Star markers in Virginia, with a majority of them being on road ways. Others are found at cemeteries and museums, but none can be found at a school.
When the Shenandoah District of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs was able to raise funds to purchase a memorial, the president, Mary Burke, wanted it in her hometown: Front Royal.
There are a few plaques in the area, including one in Winchester, Frederick County and New Market, but the one at R-MA is the first for Warren County. The local garden club approached the school, and offered to provide funding and the marker itself.
R-MA President, Major General Henry Hobgood, was happy to host the plaque.
"We are a military prep school, so it makes sense for us to take on a marker that recognizes people for their military service ... those that have served and are serving, but also those who plan to serve in the future," he said Wednesday. "This is much more in honor of the military than in honor of R-MA, but we are proud to display it."
The ceremony planned for 3:15 p.m. on Friday will go along with the prestigious memorial, Hobgood said.
"We will receive the marker with dignity," he added.
A full dress parade and band performance will take place before a presentation by the local district's garden club, and it is expected that Judy Binns, president of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., will be in attendance. Timothy Darr, Front Royal's mayor, will be in attendance, and the event is open to the public.
"It's truly a handsome marker," Hobgood said. "And to my knowledge it is the first for our community that we are so proud to be a part of, so it's all very exciting."
The bronze plaque will stand on a poll at the entrance to the school's campus.
"I suppose some could say it's just a small marker, but it comes with great symbolism that really speaks to the people who serve our country who, in some respect, sort of go unnoticed," Hobgood said. "We have a very small percent of Americans, men and women, serving in active military, and it can be very easy to forget about their sacrifices to keep us free. There are people in uniform on a daily basis who let us live in this great country, and I don't think we can be reminded of that enough."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org