Lending a Helping Hand
Every Memorial Day, in my hometown of Barry, Illinois, there's a display of American flags, unlike any display I have ever seen in a town of its small size.
During Memorial Day weekend, members of the American Legion and other volunteers carefully unfold and place the flags on poles and erect them around the City's park and Main Street all the way to the local cemetery, where the annual Memorial Day service is conducted. There are hundreds of full size flags.
This display always succeeds in getting me a little misty eyed, because each of the flags represents a deceased veteran. One of those flags belongs to my father. Sadly, over the course of many years of living in Barry, I observed the number of flags grow, as each passing generation of veterans have been added to the display. Every flag has a cloth tag with name of the veteran that the flag represents, sewn on it. It's become a Memorial Day "tradition," for me and my daughter to walk among the flags and find the flags of her grandfathers.
Although great care is taken with the flags, many of them date back to veterans of the First World War, through present day, and some of the flags are showing their age. Many times the veterans' family members have moved away from the area, or have also died, which leaves the financial burden for flag replacement squarely on the shoulders of the Barry Legion.
This is where I have to add a disclaimer. All of those searches for her grandfathers' flags made an impact. My daughter, Caitlin recently asked the Barry Legion if she could assist them in raising funds for flag upkeep and replacement. They told her that she was welcome to help.
For her recent 16th Birthday, Caitlin asked that guests bring a donation for the flags rather than gifts. With that bit of seed money, Caitlin then ordered silicone wristbands (pictured), that people could wear, in exchange for a small donation, with all the proceeds earmarked for the Legion's flag fund. The red, white and blue wristbands have "Freedom Isn't Free," printed on them.
Caitlin is planning on offering the wristbands during Memorial Day weekend at the park in the center of town. I'm not certain how many wristbands will be handed out, but I'm hopeful that it's a good number. Am I proud of her? Of course, but this isn't about her; it's about our deceased veterans. They earned that flag through their service and sadly, some with their lives.
And I for one, want to keep the "flags of our fathers," flying proudly, for years to come.