A facility where people can learn about the importance of protecting our outdoor resources has become a site where visitors can appreciate the men and women who protect our country.
In November 2009, a dedication ceremony was held at Missouri Department of Conservation’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery near Branson to unveil the facility’s newest feature—a Blue Star Memorial Marker. A crowd that included armed forces veterans, Shepherd of the Hills Garden Club members, Missouri Department of Conservation personnel, Branson city officials, and Missouri Conservation Commissioner Don Johnson, himself a veteran, were on hand to witness the dedication.
The Blue Star Memorial Marker Program is a nation-wide effort of the National Garden Clubs Inc. that began in 1945. The program’s initial purpose was to honor the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. In 1951, the program’s mission was enlarged to include all men and women who have served, are currently serving or will serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. At present, there are 57 Blue Star Memorial Markers in Missouri and more than 2,000 nationwide.
“The Blue Star Memorial symbolizes the freedom we enjoy in the USA,” said Bev Brown, a member of the Shepherd of the Hills Garden Club and the chairman of the club’s Blue Star Memorial Project. “Our country is the ‘Home of the free, because of the brave.” These markers are small tokens of gratitude from us to them (the veterans) to let them know we will not forget.”
Shepherd of the Hills’ marker, a sign surrounded by a decorative landscaping arrangement of native stone and native wildflowers, is located near the entrance to the hatchery’s Conservation Center. The dedication ceremony was the culmination of an effort that began more than a year before. People and groups involved in this cooperative venture included members of the Shepherd of the Hills Garden Club, the Branson Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the American Legion Post 220, Perberton-Jennings Post 220, members of Branson Cub Scout Pack 93, students from College of the Ozarks and the work of local landscaper Chris Lambing.
“The bottom line of this project is that it was a community effort,” said John Miller, the naturalist programs supervisor at Shepherd of the Hills. “This could not have been done by any one group.”
Those unfamiliar with Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery may think it’s odd to put a veteran’s memorial