Saluting Old Glory at the Westerville Christmas Parade

December 12, 2023
Saluting Old Glory at the Westerville Christmas Parade
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A heartwarming story has emerged from the recent Westerville Christmas parade in Ohio, where a photographer captured a poignant photo of a veteran saluting the American flag. After posting the image online in hopes of identifying the man to send him a copy, photographer Ryan Childress was met with an immense outpouring of support from the community. What began as a small local search blossomed into a viral movement that ultimately succeeded in tracking down the veteran, who opted to remain unnamed.

Though choosing to stay anonymous, the man's family relayed that he was uplifted to learn how his simple act of respect resonated with thousands nationwide. The experience has reinforced Childress' faith in the enduring power of human goodness and unity.  This also reinforces our faith in Americans, we need more people to publicly support and honor our way of life - maybe a gesture as simple as a stranger saluting our flag as it passes by, is all we really need?

Original Story Repost:

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — A photographer who was on the hunt to find a man, believed to be a veteran, who he captured in a photograph during the Westerville Christmas parade said he has found him after days of searching.

Ryan Childress, the man who took the photograph, enlisted the help of social media to identify the man, and the Facebook post has been searched more than 15,000 times in just a few days. 

Childress was hoping to identify the man so that he could send him a copy of the portrait.

"I've been absolutely blown away with how this picture has touched people," Childress said.

Childress said his daughter’s dance group was walking in the annual Westerville Christmas parade, so he decided to bring his camera along. While he was there, Childress said he noticed a man in a green jacket saluting the American flag as it passed by.

"When I saw the man there, I immediately thought of my own dad," Childress said.

Childress’ dad is a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran. As he watched the man in the picture inch closer to the street as the flag came into sight, Childress said he knew what he was witnessing was something special.

"I'm not sure what his history is, maybe he fought for that flag, or maybe, you know, whatever the case was, it really meant a lot to him," Childress said.  

Along with the thousands of shares, likes, and comments on social media, came a request from members of the community for Childress to sell copies of the portrait. It’s a demand Childress never could have anticipated, and he decided to donate all of the proceeds from the sales of the picture to a local veteran organization.

"The entire spirit of this whole thing is to pay respect and homage to a veteran," Childress said. 

A community joined in on the effort to help find a man whose simple gesture resonated with so many.

"There's a lot of, a lot of neat things that cold come out of it if that's what he wishes,” Childress said.

Childress posted the update to his page, “RJ Childress Photography” on Facebook, saying that he has been in contact with the family, who have opted to remain anonymous.

The final update post is included below:

"The gentleman in the green jacket has been identified! I have been in contact with his wife and children. They are absolutely wonderful people. They have opted to remain anonymous, but are very appreciative. I was told it made his day, which is what this was all about. With that being said, we have to respect their wishes.

The takeaway for me is that although there is much evil in the world today, there is also a heck of a lot of good. The overflow of support and love has been just unbelievable. What started as a small anonymous search that I posted in a private local group became a movement spreading all of the way to North Carolina and Texas! 

The compliments and kind words I received from all of you about my photography means more than you know. I will forever be grateful.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!”

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