Hundreds Line Streets with Over 2,300 Flags for Sergeant Tim Owens

By Lindsay Clein

Published 04/11 2014 10:52PM

Updated 04/12 2014 07:49PM

ROLLA, Mo. --  A soldier killed in a shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas will be laid to rest in Rolla Saturday. 

The Rolla community came together with hundreds of soldiers and Larry Eckhardt, also known as "The Flagman," to spread Owens' remembrance.

37-year-old Army Sergeant Tim Owens was one of the victims of Army Specialist Ivan Lopez at Fort Hood on April 2.

Sergeant Owens was a graduate of Rolla High School.

Friday, hundreds gathered to fly flags throughout Sergeant Owens' procession route.

While many in attendance didn't actually know Sergeant Owens, there was an outpouring of support from the Rolla community and hundreds of soldiers.

"As long as these flags are remembered-- he'll be remembered," says 'Flagman' Larry Eckhardt.

Over 2,300 American flags wave in the wind as a calm breeze blows through Rolla, Missouri.

"It's definitely an honor to be out here and do this," says Army Watch Commander Sergeant Andrew Lopez.  "And show our support for our fellow brothers and sisters."

Lopez is stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington.  He's one of the hundreds of soldiers that came out to show support for Sergeant Owens.

The flags, spread out by the community and soldiers, line the streets for six miles.  They tell a story that words can't explain.

"To let everybody know he is a hero," says Eckhardt.

The flags are symbols of blood, sweat and tears.  The remembrance of a fallen hero.

"Without these guys and women serving, we wouldn't be able to do anything," says Eckhardt.

Old Glory now flies for Sergeant Tim Owens.

"This is our 122nd one," says Eckhardt.  "And believe me-- it's just as hard for this one as it was the first one."

Larry Eckhardt is also known as "The Flagman."  He's a complete stranger to the families of fallen heroes.  He voluntarily places flags along funeral procession routes for service men and women.

"What we try to do is give the town and entire area an opportunity to visually show the family how much we care," he says.

Eckhardt lives in Illinois and travels to twelve states in the midwest to do this.

"I am probably the most blessed man in the country," he says.  "Because I get to see the town at its absolute worst-- because they've lost somebody.  But, I also get to see it at its absolute best on the same day."

The flapping flags were put up with the help of hundreds of soldiers from all over, along with Rolla residents.

"There have only been two other towns that have competed with this one as far as soldier turnout," says Eckhardt.  "And this beat 'em."

"Tim went to high school here and many knew him and his family," says Rolla Resident Martha Long.  "And it has given us something to come together to show our support to them and how much not only Tim, but all our service men and women mean to us."

Although these soldiers didn't know Sergeant Owens personally, whether on the battlefield half a world away or here at home-- they share a bond that can't be broken.

"When something happens to them, it takes a piece out of you," says Sergeant Codye Black.

"We give back to our fellow soldiers," said one soldier from Fort Leonard Wood.  "It's sad it had to happen, but we always give back.  We give back to the community and share that bond and trust."

The stars and stripes now line the streets of Rolla, serving as a 'thank you' from the family Sergeant Owens never actually met, but always had.

"Thank you not only for their sacrifices, but for letting me be a part of it," says Eckhardt.  "That's a big honor on my part."

Eckhardt says there were around 800 people helping today.

Funeral services for Sergeant Owens will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church in Rolla.

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