A 9-year-old boy in Mississippi stood in the pouring rain to pay tribute to a WWII veteran he had never met.
Kaiden Wade's grandmother recently brought him to a funeral for a highway patrolmen, where he noticed how the state troopers stood stock-still in their uniforms as the motorcade passed, the Sun Herald reports.
While visiting his great-grandmother in Ocean Springs on Aug. 31, she told him that a WWII hero’s funeral procession would pass by soon, featuring a horse-drawn hearse.
Kaiden took the opportunity to pay tribute to war hero Jerry O’Keefe, whom he had never met, and stood on the corner of the street in the rain for 30 minutes with his hand over his heart as the funeral procession passed.
"It was very touching to see him there,” Martha O’Keefe, Jerry’s widow, told the Sun Herald. “It was so touching to see that young man show such respect for Jerry.”
“This young fellow was the symbolism for the youth and vitality that was so present in my Dad,” Cecilia O’Keefe Neustrom, one of Jerry’s daughters, said. “You can't put your finger on what it meant. He was all by himself and he was barefoot, just standing alone in the rain.”
The O’Keefes did not know Kaiden, so they took so social media using a photo snapped from the procession to find out who he was.
Joe O'Keefe, Jerry's youngest son, posted the photo of Kaiden on Facebook asking if anyone knew the boy.
It didn’t take long for the post to go viral and Kaiden’s identity to be revealed to the O’Keefes.
“His face was one of the most moving, inspiring and healing images of the day,” Joe wrote on Facebook. “Young man, you blessed us all.”
Kaiden, speaking with the Sun Herald, said he did it to see the horse-drawn hearse and pay his respects.
“I stood still the whole time,” he said. “I didn’t move a muscle, but I probably blinked a little.”
Kaiden’s father, Kevin Wade, is amazed by his son’s actions.
“He stands not just through the whole procession, but the last police car that came through -- standing still with his hand over his heart,” Kevin told the paper. “It was amazing to me.”
The O’Keefes invited Kaiden to the funeral home and gave him the special gift of a black cap with “World War II Veteran” stitched on the front to express their gratitude.
He also received a commemorative coin that was made for Jerry's 90th birthday, a pocket knife and a book with a touching inscription written by Jeffrey O’Keefe, the funeral home president, that said: “The image of you standing in the rain with hand over heart will forever be etched in our lives.”