A heartfelt photo of a U.S. Army soldier paying tribute in the rain to a World War II nurse went viral on Jan. 11.
The photo shared by Kim Wiley shows Spc. Melvin Taylor standing at attention in the rain Biloxi National Cemetery in Mississippi on Jan. 10 at the funeral for 100-year-old Annie Ruth McVadon, who passed away Jan. 4.
“What struck me most was knowing how miserable it is to stand in freezing torrential rain, and yet he did it with such conviction and stoicism for the sake of honoring the deceased and the family,” Kim Wiley, the owner of the photo, and the wife of a retired Air Force service member, told American Military News.
Yesterday, I was with family at a military funeral in Biloxi. This soldier stood at attention in the pouring rain. It…
“Yesterday, I was with family at a military funeral in Biloxi. This soldier stood at attention in the pouring rain. It was cold and windy, he was drenched, but he proudly stood there while the rest of us were under the gazebo,” Wiley wrote on Facebook.
“He stood still and tall, until it was time to approach the casket, to meticulously fold the flag to present to the family. Then he stepped back to his position in the rain again, and proceeded to play the most beautiful, soulful rendition of Taps I had ever heard. Whoever you are, thank you sir, for reminding me of a wholly different meaning to military service,” she added.
As of Jan. 14, the post had more than 14,000 shares on Facebook — one of them being Spc. Taylor himself. Wiley has since been in contact with Taylor.
Taylor served two military funerals that day — both in the rain. Instead of playing TAPS on the instrument, a speaker inserted inside of it played the rendition.
He never expected to receive this kind of attention from what he described as his “passion.”
Taylor said he was called to military service and especially funeral detail. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of something so honorable,” he told American Military News.
Taylor credits his father, who was also in the military but died when Taylor was young, for the drive to continually prove himself. “Most of my best decisions are because of me wanting to make him proud of me,” Taylor said.
“Now that I am a part of this amazing group of guys and girls, I couldn’t be more proud,” Taylor said, adding that the rifle team is where he especially loves to perform.
Taylor said it’s his honor to serve military funerals, even if it is a highly emotional task.
Annie Ruth McVadon grew up in Petal, Miss., during the Great Depression, according to her obituary.
She joined the Army after graduating from Providence School of Nursing in Mobile, Ala. She went on to nurse paratroopers from Normandy and elsewhere.
After World War II, she settled on the Gulf Coast to take a nursing job at the Biloxi VA, where she met her future husband of 54 years, photographer Robert McVadon in 1948. They had three children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“She fed tables of people weekly and always with lively conversation,” reads McVadon’s obituary. “People often stopped by just for a glass of her famous iced tea and hopes for a piece of pecan or key lime pie.”
“If she was here, she would think this is all a big hoot,” said McVadon’s daughter Phyllis Wilkerson of Mobile, Ala. “She would just get a big kick out of all of this attention.”