Sat. May 18th, 2024

Plenty of teen girls spend years looking forward to prom and dreaming of their perfect prom dress.

For Aubrey Headon, those dreams involved designing a dress that doubled as a nod to the military.

Headon made headlines for her beautiful tribute, one she hoped would remind people of the fact that service members give their lives so the rest of us can enjoy carefree times like prom night.

Her red, white, and blue gown was a nod to the American flag, but even more special was the skirt. It was adorned with 25 ribbons that bore the names of 25 fallen members of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, also known as 3/5, and nicknamed “Darkhorse.”

The “Darkhorse” Marine Corps unit had the highest casualty rate of any unit in the last decade of war.

The idea for the gown started when Aubrey met Gretchen Catherwood.

“She started the Darkhorse Lodge to help combat veterans. I do a fundraiser every year to donate to the lodge,” the teen told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Catherwood is the mother of Alec Catherwood, one of the Darkhorse Marines. He and 24 members of his battalion were killed in action between September 2010 and April 2011 in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

The meeting inspired Aubrey to do “something special” in Catherwood’s memory.

Headon said: “I wanted to wear this tribute dress [to] my senior prom so the memories of the guys who fell in Afghanistan for our right to live how we do and do what we do every day is carried on. I don’t want them to fade into nothing.”

Memories are important to the teen, who lost a close friend affiliated with the military. His name, “Tyler Smith,” is emblazoned across a lone black ribbon, the 26th addition to her dress. Smith graduated in 2014 from the same high school Headon attended.

His death was ruled a drowning, but he also happened to be a member of the Illinois Army National Guard.

Gretchen Catherwood was touched by the gesture and said Aubrey continues to help raise money for their Darkhorse Lodge non-profit.

“Aubrey has been an important part of our lives for five years. She honors our son and his brothers every chance she gets. She is a very special young lady.”

The battalion dates back to WWI, but they got their nickname during the Korean War. It comes from the radio call sign of the commander at the time, Colonel Robert Taplett, who was known as “Darkhorse Six.”

A documentary called For the 25 tells the men’s stories and their struggles during the seven-month deployment.

Headon wore the dress to her senior prom at Rochelle Township High School in Illinois.

The blue dress that Aubrey modified will be displayed at the Rochelle Museum in the near future, according to her mother, Cass Headon.

When photos of her dress hit social media, she was flooded with messages of support.

“The biggest response has been from Gold Star families, thanking me for remembering their loved ones,” she said.

Aubrey now attends Carroll University in Wisconsin where she’s studying exercise science and hopes to become a physical therapist so she can help former combat veterans. Despite struggles with Cerebral Palsy, she’s also part of the track and field team.