AUGUSTA — Gary Burns, an Augusta native injured in the Vietnam War, started working for Disabled American Veterans in 1970, the same day the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker in the Augusta veterans cemetery was first dedicated.

On Friday, Burns spoke at the unveiling and dedication of a new Blue Star marker at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta.

“It’s just another way of saying thanks,” Burns, 70, said after the dedication ceremony. “That’s what it means to me. I appreciate that. All the guys do.”

The Kennebec District Garden Club Federation of Maine installed the new Blue Star marker at the entrance road to the cemetery off Civic Center Drive because the former marker sponsored by the St. Croix District club was showing its age.

Debra Burnham, president of the Kennebec District Garden Club, said the club began looking into the possibility of replacing the marker at the cemetery last year.

The Blue Star Memorial Program began in 1944 as a beautification project along five miles of highway in New Jersey to honor World War II veterans by the New Jersey Council of Garden Clubs, said Linda Redman, Blue Star chairwoman of the Garden Club Federation of Maine. The program was later adopted across the country, with Blue Star Memorial Highways now covering thousands of miles, she said. There are about 28 in Maine.

“Freedom is not free, and we hope that this Blue Star Memorial Highway marker will cause all of us to reflect on that point whenever we see it, to remember the sacrifices of the military and their families, and to thank our military members, past present and in the future,” Redman said at the ceremony.

The name and design of the memorials are drawn from the blue star on the service flags that often hang in the windows of households with family members serving in the military.

“These markers are not designed to honor any one person, but rather all who served their country in the U.S. military,” Redman said.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, whose parents are buried in the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, read a legislative sentiment honoring the new marker.

First lady Ann LePage, whom Katz called “a champion of veterans like no one has been before,” also spoke at the ceremony. She said she’s dedicated her tenure to supporting people serving in the military and their families.

“This Blue Star marker will serve as a constant reminder that our military members have forever served this nation with honor, and that there are relatives and friends who must always remain behind hoping and praying daily for their safe return,” LePage said.

“To those veterans here today and their families, my simple thank you will never be enough. You maintain and strengthen the presence of freedom in our nation for generations to come.”