ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A local teen’s journey to honor the country’s heroes began when she met the mother of a Byron Marine who lost his life in 2010.
Rochelle-native Aubrey Headon has helped raise thousands of dollars to build several cabins for a retreat in Tennessee that will serve as a place where veterans can come together and relax.
“The veterans can come together and talk and meet each other on the decks and stuff like that,” said Headon.
Headon has been selling t-shirts for the past four years. All of the designs commemorate the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines unit also known as “Darkhorse.”
The retreat will be named “Darkhorse Lodge” after the battalion.
Most of the battalion lost their lives in action overseas, including 19-year-old Byron native and U.S. Marine Alec Catherwood.
Catherwood was shot and killed while battling enemy forces in Afghanistan.
“I did not actually get to meet Alec. I was in fourth grade when he was killed,” said Headon.
Headon’s mission to help build the cabins began after befriending the fallen marine’s mom, Gretchen. Headon helped raised more than $10,000 and says her favorite part of selling the shirts is Catherwood’s moms reaction.
“Alec’s moms face lights up when she gets the money and just seeing her excitement, that her dream is coming true and we’ll actually get to see veterans at the lodge,” Headon said.
Headon says helping veterans is a personal sentiment. “Both my grandfathers served during Vietnam. One was actually a combat vet [who] served in combat over in Vietnam. So I’ve seen…how he’s reacted to stuff.”
The Rochelle Township High School graduate recently paid tribute to the fallen marines with her prom dress, turning it into a memorial.
She used red and white ribbons draped over a skirt to reveal the names of the fallen troops, printed in black and white.
A matching blue halter top featured embellishments that look like stars.
“This is your last thing you’re going to do in high school besides graduate, so let’s include them in on that as well,” she said.
The cabins are currently under way and once complete there will be six of them, five for veterans and one for staff. All will be handicap accessible.
Headon hopes to one day continue helping the country’s heroes by working as a physical therapist to help those who are in treatment.
If you are interested in purchasing a t-shirt, visit Darkhorse Lodge Fundraiser on Facebook.