News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 9, 2013

Volunteers place flags along funeral route for Korean War veteran Robert Gene Archer

Fallen veteran’s remains returned to Brazil on Tuesday

BRAZIL, Ind. — For Larry “The Flag Man” Eckhardt, lining flags along the funeral route for Korean War veteran Robert Gene Archer — who died as a prisoner of war 62 years ago — is an “honor beyond all honors.”

Eckhardt, an Illinois man who has helped honor fallen troops across the country with similar tributes, arrived at French Funeral Home just after 1 p.m. Friday. About 100 volunteers showed up on a cloudy, chilly day to help place the flags.

“This man is a hero beyond description as far as I’m concerned,” Eckhardt said. “I cannot tell you how it affects me.”

He brought 2,100 flags to line the five-mile funeral route, which would extend west from the Brazil funeral home on U.S. 40 and then south on Water Works Road to Summit Lawn Cemetery.

Archer was just 19 when he was captured by North Korean forces in late 1950 and became a prisoner or war. He died on Feb. 28, 1951, far from his family, friends and home.

Recently, through DNA testing by the U.S. military, Cpl. Archer’s remains were identified and he finally returned to his hometown of Brazil on Tuesday.

Eckhardt said he had just been to a military funeral in Michigan, but “I was going to be here no matter what … When we get to welcome one of these guys back that has waited so long, and their families have wondered for so long, it is just phenomenal.”

He briefly addressed the crowd, paying tribute to veterans and to those who volunteered Friday. “Without you, this would not happen,” he said.

He then instructed volunteers to place the flags about 12 large steps apart down both sides of the road, but not in front of traffic devices. The three-by-five foot flags are on 10-foot poles.

Flags were then loaded into pickup trucks and vans, and teams of volunteers went to different parts of the funeral route. Volunteers used iron bars and sledge hammers to create holes in the ground next to the roadway, and others then planted the flags.

Among those placing flags along U.S. 40 in downtown Brazil were Charles and Mary Helen Fuhrer of Terre Haute. “You get chills planting the flags and thinking it’s an honor for this man,” said Mary Helen Fuhrer, a retired Vigo County School Corp. teacher.

“It’s good to have him come home,” said Charles Fuhrer.

Closer to the cemetery, along Water Works Road, Michele Neese of Poland helped place flags with her 16-year-old son, Cole.

“I felt like it was very important to honor his memory, even though it’s been as long ago as it has. I read he didn’t have a lot of family,” said Neese, who is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “I thought it was important that the community show support,” especially since Archer had been a prisoner of war.

Also volunteering were several members of the Indiana Air National Guard 181st Intelligence Wing. They wanted to be there “to welcome home a long-awaited brother in arms,” said Lt. Col. Robert Wiemuth.

Brazil Mayor Brian Wyndham and about 10 city workers assisted. “As a community, we’re very honored to be part of this and we want to make sure our veterans are honored,” Wyndham said.

Tom Archer, a nephew of the fallen soldier, described Friday’s turnout for the placing of flags as “fantastic. It’s unbelievable … It’s really hard to express the emotion and gratitude.”

Eckhardt also praised the community for the strong turnout Friday. He described the mood as more upbeat than is typically the case in such circumstances. “We’re welcoming somebody home. At the same time, it’s a tribute to all of our Korean soldiers,” Eckhardt said.

Being able to help honor Archer “is beyond description. How do you describe a young man that has been gone for 62 years? He’s basically served his country for 62 years,”  Eckhardt said.

Also volunteering Friday was Charles Carlton, 80, of Bridgeton, a Korean War veteran. While he didn’t know Archer, he believed it was important to help place the flags on Friday. “I think he deserves it. We were both in the same place. I made it back; he didn’t,” Carlton said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Raw: Royal Couple Visits Australia Mountains Raw: Pro-Russian Militants Killed on Base Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Raw: Blast at Tennessee Ammunition Plant Kills 1
NDN Video
The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity