Flag placement for fallen captain begins

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ASSUMPTION, Ill. (WAND) – Flag planting efforts started today in honor of a fallen Air Force pilot.

Volunteers met Friday morning to start placing flags along U.S. 51 South. Over 1,000 of them lined the road from Moweaqua to Assumption. The effort is in memory of Capt. Joseph Smith, a central Illinois native, who died in 1971 when his plane was shot down.

Search crews recently discovered his remains. DNA technology helped identify him this year.

Organizer Larry Eckhardt set up Capt. Smith’s homecoming. He has placed flags for similar events in 14 states now.

“When you get people turning out like that, you’re getting something accomplished.” Eckhardt said. “Everyone out here cares. It’s just sometimes it’s got to hit home. It’s all these towns that care.”

Volunteers will gather again Saturday to escort Capt. Smith’s body from Moweaqua to Assumption. His funeral is scheduled for Monday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. 

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