Thousands of flags lined the streets of Rolla Friday, one day ahead of the funeral for Sgt. Timothy Owens. Owens was one of the victims of the April 2 shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas.
Larry Eckhardt, who calls himself the "Flag Man," travels around 12 states with thousands of American flags to pay tribute to fallen soldiers and their families.
"This is my 122nd funeral and it tears me up every time. It's just one of those things," Eckhardt said.
"These young men and women are dying for that flag. The very least we should do is make sure it protects them on their way home."
Eckhardt partners with Hope for Heroes to organize the flag tributes.
"We've done it in snow, we've done it in rain, we've done it in hot [weather]," Chip Shaffer, Midwest coordinator for Hope for Heroes, said.
"I almost lost my son in 2008 in Iraq, he had his leg blown off September 1. I spent a lot of time at Walter Reed during the recovery period with him, and to pay back what these soldiers face in combat...it's an honor to come out and work with them."
Hundreds of soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood also volunteered to post the flags Friday. While they say it's an honor to pay tribute to one of their own, it also leaves them to wonder 'what if?'
"Right now my husband is in Afghanistan...so this could have been my husband, or it could have been me here somewhere. So it really hits home," Staff Sgt. Tametra Klosterman said.
While volunteers came in all shapes and sizes, it's the servicemen and women and the children that are particularly important to Eckhardt.
"These kids are our future. You know, old people like me are gonna pass on but if [the children] can remember back to when they were a kid and they lost a soldier in their town, they're gonna say 'we did it this way!'" he said.
"As long as these flags are remembered, he'll be remembered."
Sgt. Owens' funeral begins Saturday at 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Rolla.