Fall 2009 Edition NJDMAVA Veterans

About NJ Veteran Journal:
The New Jersey Veteran Journal is an official publication of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and is intended to serve New Jersey's veterans, their families, friends and concerned individuals and groups. All correspondence should be sent to:

Veteran Journal Editor, NJDMAVA/PA, PO Box 340,
Trenton, NJ 08625-0340

Blue Star dedicated at Vineland
Story and photo by Tech. Sgt. Barbara Harbison, NJDMAVA/PA

Hundreds of markers, thousands of miles of highway, honoring millions of service men and women – all started with a small program, the Blue Star Drive, here in New Jersey 65 years ago.

On Nov. 6, New Jersey had its newest Blue Star Memorial Highway marker dedicated at the Vineland Veterans Home; the occasion also marked the 65th anniversary of the Blue Star Drive program.

The Garden Club of New Jersey and the State Highway Commission (pre-cursor to the Dept. of Transportation) had an “inspired idea,” in 1944 according to then-Governor Walter E. Edge. They had the foresight to start a living memorial for the veterans of World War II. The program was to beautify five miles of Route 29

Vineland Veterans Home resident Walter Wengel, left, smiles as he assists Bea Allen, New Jersey Blue Star Highway Committee chairperson, unveil the newest Blue Star Memorial on the Vineland Home grounds on Dec. 5. The dedication was held during a ceremony that also celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Blue Star Memorial Highway.

(now Route 22) between Mountainside and North Plainfield. Not only would no billboards be permitted on that stretch of highway; the club raised money to plant flowering dogwoods along the road.

The road would be named the Blue Star Drive after the fl ags that hung in the windows of families who had members serving on active duty; a tradition that continues to the present day.

Vineland Veterans Home auditorium was the scene of the dedication of the newest New Jersey marker. With residents, staff and many guests in the audience, the Vineland Facility Choir, Delsea Regional High School Junior ROTC, local legislators and the N.J. Blue Star Memorial Highway Council dedicated the marker and celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Blue Star program.

Next, everyone went outside for the unveiling of the marker. Vineland Home residents Walter Wengel and Blue Star dedicated at Vineland Story and photo by Tech. Sgt. Barbara Harbison, NJDMAVA/PA Charlie Kinsky helped pull the cloth down to reveal the new marker that overlooks the stone planters with their colorful plantings that stand guard over the circular paved area in the center. In the grassy area around the site are numerous young trees waiting to grow and shade the memorial and its guests.

Joe Romano, CEO of Vineland Home, was very enthusiastic about the newest “resident” of the home. He said that the residents had a great time watching the progress of its building. “It will be a great place for residents and their families to come and sit and relax,” he added.

Legion donates gazebo
The center courtyard of the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home has a new addition of an aluminum and glass gazebo donated by the American Legion.

Former commander Frank Calandrillo, center, gets ready to cut the ribbon on the gazebo that was part of his state commander’s projects for 2007-2008. Helping with the fund raising for the projects were the Sons of the American Legion represented by Frank Jiosi, Jr., left, Detachment commander during Calendrillo’s term and Dolores Gonzalez, right, president of the New Jersey American Legion Women’s Auxiliary 2007-2008. The gazebo was part of $85,000 in projects that included a greenhouse at the Vineland Veterans Memorial Home, a dozen low beds for Paramus Veterans Memorial Home and improvements to the courtyard at the Lyons Veterans Administration hospital. Photo by Kryn P. Westhoven, NJDMAVA/PA.