The Gold Star Mural just off Route 66 in Cuba was painted just after 9/11 although it had been planned for months. With its tribute to the young men from the Cuba area who had lost their lives during WWII, it seemed an apt expression of the feeling of patriotism that swept the country at the time.
The train in the mural is The Blue Bonnet. During W.W. II the Blue Bonnet, a Frisco train named after the Texas state flower, was a familiar sight with its distinctive blue and white cars. It was this #7 train that whisked away Cuba’s service men as they left their homes to protect America’s way of life and values. These young men sometimes gave their lives to keep the light of freedom burning.
Cuba’s Gold Star boys who gave their lives during WW II were the following: Ralph Burnell Fishwick-Navy; Preston A. (Bud) Gibson Jr.-Army; Lawrence E. Grant-Navy; Dale K. Hudson-Navy; Rex Hilliard Powell-Naval Reserve; and Floyd Cecil Vaughn-9th Air Corps. Their names on listed on the red background on the north end of the mural. Their names can also be found on the Cuba Veterans Memorial on Smith Street.
According to a Cuba Free Press letter to the editor at the time the mural was painted, Wilbur Vaughn remembed his family taking his brother Cecil to this train during World War II. He then went home, sat on the porch, and heard the whistle of the Blue Bonnet as it left. He remembered how sad it sounded. His brother Cecil Vaughn is one of the young men who did not return from the war.
You might wonder why these men who died in the service of their country were called “Gold Star Boys.” With Public Law 534, the 89th Congress directed the design and distribution of a lapel button–known as the Gold Star Lapel button–to identify widows, parents, and next of kin of members of the Armed Forces of the United who lost their lives during hostilities. The pin is depicted on the north end of the mural.
The pin, which is issued by the Department of Defense, is gold and is on a purple background for combat death and all gold for death while in service. When one of the service men was killed in combat, his relatives received this gold pin. Servicemen’s mothers often wore the medal to show that they had lost a son. It was a badge not only of sadness for loss but also one of pride because their sons had sacrificed for their country.
On this Veterans Day, Viva Cuba would like to remember these young men and all the young men and women who have served their country both in time of peace and in time of war.
For more information on the Gold Star Mothers’ organization, visit goldstarmoms.com.
Michelle Loughery, of Canada, who painted the A.J. Barnett mural, along with her assistant Sara Lindsay, returned to Cuba for this mural. Local artist Shelly Smith Steiger assisted on tthe mural. Steiger now teachers high school art at Cuba High School.