Illinois town welcomes home man known for putting up flags for fallen first responders

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LITTLE YORK, Ill. (ABC News) — A small Illinois town welcomed home Larry the Flag Man as he returned home during a battle with cancer. Larry has been known to honor fallen heroes by placing hundreds of flags along funeral routes for the last 15 years.

Larry Eckhardt has been suffering from a vocal paralysis after suffering a heart attack and is nearing his final days, according to WQAD.

Eckhardt has been receiving treatment in Iowa City, Iowa, but returned home to hospice care in Little York on Tuesday.

In his honor, volunteers lined his 90 mile procession home on Hwy 94 with American flags.

“Everyone says Larry gave to all of us. It’s time for us to give back to Larry,” said Jessica Taylor of the Kirkwood Fire Department.

Eckhardt, who served with the Marines, began lining up flags for fallen soldiers and first responders 15 years ago, starting with only 50 flags.

His effort multiplied into a force of volunteers across 14 states.

Friend Ron Kunth said, “He has a very broad perspective of who he helps. There is nobody left out. He’s just Larry.”

“He’s not the Larry we normally see. Normally [he] is happy, go-getting, bossing people around,” said Little York Assistant Fire Chief Steve Melleny. “It’s really taking a toll on Larry, but I’ve been praying for Larry. So, it’s a bad deal to see Larry like this.”

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