Legion post will honor Shelton military families

Walter Bills of Shelton is proud of his designation as a Blue Star father. He and his wife, Rebecca, received a Blue Star banner 15 years ago to honor their son Steven Bills, who was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Turkey.

The Blue Star program gives banners and window decals to families of loved ones serving in the U. S. armed forces, and at a May 18 ceremony, the Sutter-Terlizzi American Legion Post 16 in Shelton will present Blue Star Service banners, decals and certificates of appreciation to designated Shelton families.

“I firmly believe in its value to the families,” Bills said. “It’s a way of honoring the service of your children and the loyalty to their country.
“We were quite happy to be able to put [the banner] in our home; where people can see it means a lot,” he said.

Proud families

Bills said his family’s military service goes back many generations, with ancestors serving in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

“The families are very proud of the family members serving,” said Shelton resident and Blue Star program coordinator Mike Kellett, who served in the U.S. Navy in the mid-1980s.

The Blue Star program is “our way of recognizing the families’ sacrifices,” said Kellett, a Post 16 member and a former post commander.

Program was dormant

The first Blue Star service banner was designed during World War I and the program thrived through World War II, only to remain dormant until its revival after the patriotism upsurge during the wars in the Middle East and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Shelton’s American Legion post distributes banners during the special presentation ceremony, Kellett said. A dozen Shelton families took part in the years after 2000, and now about a half-dozen families take part every other year.

Families receive a banner, a static stick window decal, and a certificate. The families receiving banners this year have already been designated, and the banners have been ordered, Kellett said.

At the Shelton Police Department headquarters, a Blue Star flag is flown to honor department members who are active National Guardsmen and U.S. Navy reservists.

“I’m proud of all the people who have served and continue to serve,” said police Chief Joel Hurliman, a retired National Guard member.

National commander visiting

Michael D. Helm of Norcatur, Kan., the national commander of the American Legion, will present banners and certificates to Shelton families on Monday, May 18, at 6 p.m. at Post 16.

It will be only the third time a national commander has visited the Shelton post, said David Gallagher, post commander.

It’s expected that local government officials will also attend the ceremony, which is open to Legionnaires and their families.

The Blue Star program “has always given the families something to be proud of,” said Gallagher, a Vietnam War veteran.

He said a lot more respect is shown today to returning veterans. “I was told to put the uniform away and grow my hair,” Gallagher said of his return home from Vietnam.

'The freedom we have'

It wasn’t that way when Post 16 member Leo Beaudry’s mother, Mildred Beaudry, became a Blue Star mother.

Beaudry, a Bridgeport resident, received her banner in 1942. Three of her sons served in the armed forces in World War II, in the Pacific theater and on the USS Midway.

Leo Beaudry served in the Korean War, and he has nothing but praise for the Blue Star program.

“It’s one of the greatest things they ever came up with to honor the lives they gave for the freedom we have,” he said.