LOVES PARK, Ill. (WIFR) -- Free flags have been available in the Rockford region for people to honor fallen veterans since 1984 and thanks to a World War II veteran that tradition is not going away anytime soon.
"This is a part of our heritage, freedom is not free," Veteran Gerald Olson said.
94-year-old Lee Hartsfield uses the power and passion he needed on the battlefield every day. Now, he spends his days honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice by placing flags on the Field of Honor a tradition he says will last forever.
"When you get an accumulated $25,000 you call me and I'll come and give you a check for another $25,000 we'll give the $50,000 to someone who promises to do it forever," Hartsfield said.
The Boys and Girls Club of America in Rockford is the organization that helped Hartsfield this year, and the endowment will cover 17 years’ worth of free flags.
"The Boys and Girls Club are collecting funds to supplement that endowment plan," Hartsfield said.
Although this is Hartsfield’s last year handing out free flags, the tradition that started in his flower shop will live on.
"The importance is the flags on the berm are a sign that the community shows it's support, when you put it in the graveyard that begins to personalize that gratitude," Hartsfield said.