Over the years, Illinois resident Larry Eckhardt has placed almost a half a million flags around the United States in honor of fallen military service members, firefighters, and police officers. He has made it his life’s mission to pay tribute to the departed individuals while he travels the country, and so far, he is doing a pretty amazing job.
To date, he has installed around 497,000 flags in the ground across dozens of states.
For that reason, all of his friends, family, and other people in the community know him simply as “Larry the Flag Man”.
For 15 years, he has been placing American flags out every time there is a funeral procession for a service member.
Oftentimes, he is assisted by his friend, Rick Otey.
“In 2005 he went to a military funeral and he didn’t think there were enough flags there. So he bought 50. Then 50 more and now has a neighborhood of 3,000 flags,” Otey told KWQC.
“He’s built really something that is awesome because it’s important for us to honor our fallen heroes.”
Eckhardt, himself, served in the marines back in the 1970s. We imagine that’s where he first gained his undying sense of patriotism, and since then, it has only continued to blossom.
Sadly, though, it seems that Eckhardt’s life is coming to an end.
For some time, he has been battling throat cancer, and just a few weeks ago, he was taken to the hospital in grave condition. Everyone in the community realized that it was now their turn to honor him.
Two dozen volunteers came out to help line a 1.5 mile stretch of road approaching Eckhardt’s house with American flags.
Additional flags were placed all along the 90 miles of highway from the hospital where he was being treated in Iowa City to his home in Little York. When he was discharged, he saw them waving in the wind the whole way home.
His ambulance was accompanied by police escorts, and when he arrived at his apartment, he was greeted by all of the people who support his mission. They were gathered outside, waiting to welcome him home and wish him the best.
The sounds of people cheering “We love you Larry!” could be heard around the block.
“He’s still alive. He’s still kicking. He’s a marine, he’s gonna kick as long as he can. He’s in hospice but don’t count him out yet,” said friend Cheryl Shagena.
One member of the community, Jessica Cansino, even pledged to help keep Eckhardt’s mission going after he is gone.
She saw the flags in the past and never realized that it was mostly one man responsible for all of them.
“I had no idea it was a one-man show. I don’t know how or what it would look like, but I don’t want to see this end with him. I really hope that somehow we can come together and keep his flags going. Not just in his memory but in every vet’s memory,” said Cansino.
Eckhardt’s efforts have impacted thousands of people’s lives and there is no doubt that they will all be talking about him for many years to come, even after he passes. “Larry the Flag Man” will not be forgotten. The flags that he has placed will become his legacy, and hopefully, someone new will now be able to carry on the torch.
Watch the full video of the news story about Larry “Flag Man” Eckhardt below.
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"Larry the Flag Man" lines roads with American flags to honor fallen veterans during their funeral processions. When he was put into hospice care, dozens of volunteers did the same for him ❤️🇺🇸 https://cbsn.ws/36rHt5U
Posted by The Uplift on Monday, March 2, 2020