A man known for his miles and miles of flags along funeral routes for area service men and women in the Midwest will be out of commission for awhile.
Larry ”The Flagman” Eckhardt of Little York, Illinois is going in for open heart surgery in Moline on Monday.
He’s a little nervous about the triple by-pass, but his greatest fear is not being available, in case duty calls.
”It sounds a little bit stupid, but my biggest concern is we’re gonna lose some soldiers and I’m not gonna be there. That’s what I’m worried about”, he said.
Eckhardt is the founder of a one-man effort to decorate miles of streets and highways along funeral procession routes for military men and women who gave the ulitimate sacrifice in the two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He started alone with fifty flags, a movement that has blossomed into more than 22-hundred flags. Now, where Eckhardt goes, volunteers follow in small towns and cities. Earlier this year, he was recognized on Flag Day, with his own day, by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
”You are our man, Larry”, said Governor Quinn on June 14. ”You’re a special guy. He’s gone to more than fifty funerals at his own expense, in his own trailer”, he said.
Eckhardt is hoping military deaths in the area take a long holiday, during his recuperation.
”If death doesn’t take a holiday, they’ll be some towns that are hurt and I was to be there to help. Unless they come get the flags. They can call me, in the hospital, or later at home,” he said.
Ever the flagman, he was hoping to do some full-flown flag decorating on Labor Day and the anniversary of 9/11.
”I want to be there for my soldiers. They’re important to me. My doctors said I should be resting for four to six weeks. I’ll give it three-and-a-half”.