Cancer takes 'Flagman' off the road

"Larry the Flagman" directs Ottumwa volunteers before setting up flags to honor Cpl. Adam Wolff in this file photo. The Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — You might remember “Larry the Flagman.” He’s not from Ottumwa, but he was here in 2014 for the funeral of Marine Cpl. Adam Wolff.

He’s not from Centerville, either. But he was there when Marine Master Sgt. Travis Riddick was buried and again when Robert Howard, a World War II fighter pilot was finally identified and brought home.

Larry Eckhardt made an impression on southeast Iowa residents through his generosity and belief that those who die wearing an American military uniform deserve a sendoff that shows the nation’s gratitude. Over the years he has traveled to more than a dozen states, bringing flags and rallying communities to support families who lost a loved one.

Eckardt’s call for volunteers in Ottumwa brought more than 200 people out to help him set up flags for Wolff’s funeral. Similar numbers helped in Centerville.

Now, it’s Eckhardt who needs a hand.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that Eckhardt was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in December. It spread to his throat, forcing him to quit traveling to funerals with his thousands of flags.

Eckhardt has already had two surgeries, the Tribune said. He faces additional rounds of radiation.

Friends have set up a fundraising page to help pay for Eckhardt’s medical bills. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/larrytheflagman.