By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
BARRY, Ill. -- Caitlin Lee expects to be busy during Memorial Day weekend.
She graduates from Western High School on Saturday, then continuing a fundraiser Sunday and Monday designed to help honor veterans.
Lee spearheaded the service project in 2012, offering patriotic red-white-and-blue wristbands for a donation. All proceeds from the Freedom Isn't Free bands go to the Barry American Legion to help with ongoing care and replacement of flags displayed each Memorial Day for Barry area veterans.
"I have people coming back to me who have worn theirs so much that they're getting faded. They come back for another. They love them so much," Lee said.
She often spots people wearing the wristbands when shopping or at area events.
Legion Commander Jerry Schulz said Lee's efforts have meant a lot to the organization, which puts more than 500 flags on display each Memorial Day. A cloth tag listing the name of the veteran is sewn onto each flag before it is displayed.
"Some of them need repaired each year," Schulz said. "Some need replaced. About all the flags were donated from families when the veteran has passed away. In some cases, we can't locate anybody to help with replacement of it cost-wise, so the Legion takes care of it."
Lee will attend John Wood Community College in the fall, then plans to transfer to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to major in elementary education. However, she wants the wristband project to continue while getting involved in other projects.
"I really want to make community service and things like that a big part of my life," she said. "I've just learned so many great things from it -- how generous people are, how much our freedom really does mean, how to be thankful for how great I've got it."
Lee deserves a lot of credit for raising money for the flag fund, Schulz said, and for boosting awareness of veterans.
But even when veterans stop to thank her, "I say I don't need thanks for it," she said.
"It's something I really wanted to do."
HOW TO GET A WRISTBAND
A booth displaying the wristbands will be set up at Barry's Lafayette Park 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, May 25 and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, May 26. More information about the project, and quantities for a larger group, is available by calling Caitlin Lee at 217-335-3008.