"DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - Larry Eckhardt, better known as the 'Flag Man,' travels 14 states to set up close to 500,000 American Flags to honor fallen military men and women and first responders.
He says, "The flags are to me, very special."
Eckhardt says every time he sets up the flags, he is never alone. Over the past few years, he has had about 60,000 volunteers.
The Flag Man's last Central Illinois visit was to set up 2,200 flags for fallen Sailor Logan Palmer. There were over 200 volunteers who came together to support Larry's efforts.
"Everyone comes out and takes pictures, it goes on the Internet, that means they're going to be remembered forever. And as long as these flags are remembered, guess who else is remembered?" As he holds back a tear he answers, "Logan and our heroes."
Larry says he does it because if he does not, no one will. He wants to make sure the ones that die serving our country are treated in the best way. He says this is just a way for the community to say 'thank you' one last time.
If you have ever had the pleasure of talking to Larry, you will notice he never says 'I' only 'we.' He is the only one who travels in his truck pulling his decorative trailer full of flags, but never will he say 'I.' He says, "We don't believe in the word 'I.' We've got a saying on our Facebook page and on my wall we came up with years ago that says, 'When talking of achievements, those people that use the word 'I' are simple-minded people with visions of grangers because nobody does anything alone."
After all the years Larry has been the 'Flag Man,' he says he continues because of the people he meets and the stories he now gets to tell. If you ever get the chance to meet him, ask him about the picture of three children on his trailer. With a smile, he will tell you a wonderful story about three kids who lost their father. The youngest always wanted to wear his dad's military backpack, but he was too short and it would drag on the ground. However, years after Larry met the family and set-up flags for their father, he saw the family again, and the youngest boy could finally wear his father's backpack even though it was only about two inches off the ground.
He also says one of his favorite moments was getting to set-up flags in the Nation's Capitol of Washington D.C. He says it was such a special moment and on that day, he felt that every man or woman he had helped bury over the years was represented with all the flags along Constitution Avenue.
The Flag Man has unfortunately visited Central Illinois more than once, and he says people always tell him they hope to never see him again, and he always replies with the same because Larry understands what he represents to each community of the 190 people he has buried.
However, Larry brings Central Illinois closer together every time he visits. That is why WAND awarded the Northwestern Illinoisan the Spirit of Central Illinois Award."
- Thomas Vowell
- Jennifer Green
- Heather McCarthy
- Cecil/Kay Lovdahl
- Janice Woll
#1 fundraising platform
More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more
In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more
Expert advice, 24/7
Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more