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Help ‘The Flag Man’ honor Sgt. Blass

Volunteers needed at 4 p.m., Thursday

March 19, 2013
by David Swartz - Managing Editor , Estherville Daily News

The city of Estherville has already lined up its flags in honor of hometown hero Staff Sgt. Steve Blass, who died in Afghanistan last week.

Prepare to see even more flags line the street in his honor this week.

Larry Eckhardt, 55, known across Illinois as The Flag Man, will come to town this Thursday bringing nearly 2,000 flags, which will be lined up and down Central Avenue.

"This is how every fallen American soldier should be welcomed home," said Eckhardt. "Whenever there's a soldier down, I go, whenever possible," he said.

But he will need some help. Volunteers are asked to meet at the Estherville Lincoln Central High School parking lot at 4 p.m. Thursday.

"Volunteers don't have to bring any tools-just bring the right kind of clothes for the weather," Eckhardt said.

The forecast for Thursday calls for a high temperature of 23 degrees.

Since 2006, Eckhardt has coordinated the planting of American flags along the funeral routes of more than 100 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who died overseas, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This Thursday will be his 105th tribute.

"I wish I could do more," he said.

Eckhardt saves the accolades for the dedicated volunteers who turn out to help display the rows of flags atop 10-foot steel poles.

"Without them, it wouldn't happen." He said. "These people don't know me, but they show up and help."

Eckhardt recalls an 83-year-old woman who stated her reason for helping put up and take down the flags in cold January weather.

"We can only bake so many casseroles," she told him.

Eckhardt said he just wants to make it as memorable for the family as possible.



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