Reporting Bill Hudson
NEW PRAGUE, Minn. (WCCO) — Lance Cpl. Dale Means, 23, was killed in Afghanistan just over a week ago. Residents of New Prague are preparing to lay him to rest Wednesday. They’ll be giving the fallen marine a fitting memorial.
The streets of New Prague are lined with more than 1,300 American flags, which were brought to town by an Illinois man’s traveling tribute. They are planted along the funeral processional route, stretching about seven miles. It’s a somber and patriotic sight.
A Traveling Tribute
A roomful of volunteers – veterans, families, friends and total strangers — came together for a most honorable cause.
When news hit of Means’ death, flagman Larry Eckhardt offered to bring his traveling tribute to town.
“I’m probably the most blessed man in the country,” Eckhardt said. “Because I get to come into these towns at their absolute worst and see it at the absolute best.”
Eckhardt brings thousands of U.S. flags to line funeral routes.
Volunteers line up, pile flags into trucks and then hit the streets to plant flags every 12 feet of the route.
“I just feel a tight group of people,” said Collin Schoenecker, a volunteer who went to high school with Means. “I just feel respect for a lot of volunteers, quite an honor to [Means] and his family and our country.”
Tasha Kallal, another volunteer, said the flag tribute was also a means to teach the children the importance of honoring those who serve.
“This is just what we do as humans,” she said.
To Eckhardt, he considers putting up the flags “an honor.”
A Tribute Continued
Wednesday’s funeral will be the ninety-seventh one in the nation to which Eckhardt has brought his flags. With that many funerals over so many years, it’s gotten to be expensive. The costs of gas and lodging alone are high. But before putting up the flags, the New Prague volunteers passed a hat to get donations to keep Eckhardt’s tributes going.