Illinois teenager gives back to veterans

A teenager from Barry, Illinois is on a mission to honor America’s deceased veterans.

“We are taking donations for the Barry American Legion Flag Fund,” Caitlin Lee said. “In return for the donations, we handout bracelets that are red-white and blue like the one I have on and then they say “Freedom Isn’t Free.””

For the last two years, Caitlin Lee has dedicated her Memorial Day Weekends to a charitable cause.

All of the money she raises helps the legion preserve a special piece of Barry’s history.

“They help to maintain the flags that they hang up every year, all throughout town. And it just helps them to be able to replace flags or buy new ones for veterans that are deceased,” Caitlin said.

“Caitlin came up with the idea of having, selling these wristbands to help us with our fund. And it’s been a big help,” Tom Miller, finance officer for the Barry American Legion said.

Every Memorial Day weekend, flags are placed all around Barry to honor deceased soldiers.

Each flag has a soldier’s name embroidered into it. But after so many years outside; some flags became damaged.

That’s when Lee decided to start this project to help pay for flags that needed to be replaced.

“Every year we have to replace a few because some are World War I. Many are World War II. Now we’re getting some from Korea and Vietnam,” Miller said.

And this project holds a special meaning in Lee’s heart.

“Both of my grandfathers were veterans, and they passed away unfortunately before I was born, Lee said. When I was younger, my father and I use to walk around town and try to find the flags. And it’s just one of my fondest memories of childhood.”

Lee’s wristband slogan also holds a special meaning to her.

“My father use to work at KICK-FM for 30 years and on his show every night when he would sign off, he would say “Freedom Isn’t Free” and so I got the slogan from him, Lee said.

Lee said it’s important that we never forget the high price of our freedom.

“These veterans have fought for our freedom, they have sacrificed so many things. And we should always keep that in the back of our mind,” Lee said.

Lee estimates that she raised $4,500 over the last two years.

Lee will sell her wristbands Monday in Lafayette Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

By Derek Franke: Monday, May 26th 2014

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