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Westmoreland soldier honored as 1,600 flags line funeral route

By Kristina Jackson

WAMEGO — The streets of Wamego were lined with American flags Thursday to honor a fallen soldier.

Sgt. Forrest Robertson, originally from Westmoreland but stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia with the 3rd Infantry Division, died Nov. 3 in Afghanistan, and people from all over the state showed their support with a flag tribute prior to his funeral.

“He gave his life for us and for freedom,” said Bonnie Carroll, a member of the Patriot Guard who came from Topeka to stand in a flag line outside Trinity Baptist Church.

Lynn Ballenger, a member of Wamego’s American Legion Post No. 172, said he hoped Robertson’s family would be honored to see the number of people who showed up to pay tribute.

“They’re showing their support however they can,” Ballenger said.

The effort to honor Robertson actually began Wednesday afternoon, when Larry “The Flag Man” Eckhardt brought 1,600 flags to line the route from the church to the cemetery.

Eckhardt travels the country to organize these tributes for military funerals.

“This is so the people in town have a way of showing they care,” Eckhardt said.

And members of the community certainly did turn out to show their support.

Mary Mellgreen volunteered in the effort to place flags, and said she wanted to show support because of her own experiences with losing a loved one.

“I had an uncle who died in Vietnam, so I thought it was like I was doing it for him,” she said. “It’s to honor somebody.”

David Mitchell, another volunteer, said many people have connections like these.

“We all know somebody,” he said.

Casey and Clarissa Childress, from Robertson’s hometown of Westmoreland, also helped place flags along the roadside.

Clarissa is a student at Rock Creek High School, which Robertson had attended, and Casey works with soldiers regularly in her job at Fort Riley.

“We do this to show support and compassion for a fallen soldier,” she said. “For me, it’s a given.”

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