When a young boy decided to pay respect to a World War II veteran, he had no idea his act would go viral. 9-year-old Kaiden Wade stood with his hand over his heart for thirty minutes while a funeral procession for veteran Jerry O’Keefe passed by in the street.
O’Keefe was a U.S. Marine Corps pilot in World War II, former mayor of Biloxi, and a community philanthropist. Jerry passed away at 93. His funeral and gravesite were filled with the sounds of gospel singers, eulogies from other veteran friends, pilots flying overhead, and bagpipes. But family members were surprised to see a kid ,who had no relation to O’Keefe, standing barefoot honoring him, in the pouring rain. They took a picture of him on the roadside in a patriotic stance as the funeral procession came from Biloxi and onto Porter Avenue in Ocean Springs.
No one knew who the boy was so Joe O’Keefe, the youngest son of Jerry, uploaded a pictured to Facebook and wrote, ““His face was one of the most moving, inspiring and healing images of the day. Young man, you blessed us all.” They asked friends to help them find the child and finally someone pulled through.
They found out Kaiden and his father Kevin were in town visiting Kevin’s sick grandmother when they heard that a procession would take place. Kaiden had the idea to go give homage, but even his father didn’t expect his son to continue standing in the rain.
“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 Wade said. “It was amazing to me.”
“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.”