BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - A photo of a soldier standing in the pouring rain playing TAPS at the funeral of a South Mississippi veteran is going viral.
The poignant photo shows Specialist Melvin Taylor unflinchingly standing in the rain at Biloxi National Cemetery as the sounds of military tribute float through the air. As of Monday morning, the post had over 6,000 shares on Facebook.
The funeral was for 100-year-old Annie Ruth McVadon, a nurse who served in World War II before settling in Biloxi.
“It was cold and windy, he was drenched, but he proudly stood there while the rest of us were under the gazebo,” wrote Kim Wiley, who snapped the photo and posted it to Facebook. "He stood still and tall, until it was time to approach the casket, to meticulously fold the flag to present to the family.
Spc. Taylor is stationed in Wiggins and is from the Picayune area. TAPS was actually played through a speaker inserted inside the instrument instead of by Taylor himself, but he said it was still an honor and a blessing to be apart of the tribute to another veteran.
“It was just cold but I knew I had to stand there tall despite the weather and show the family the respect they deserved for not only supporting that vet but standing by her side throughout her military career,” said Spc. Taylor.
Annie Ruth McVadon grew up in Petal, Miss. during the depression. After graduating from Providence School of Nursing in Mobile, she joined the Army. Stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., she nursed wounded paratroopers from Normandy and many others. She would often regale her family with stories from that time, recalling big bands who came to entertain the troops and the celebration that erupted when the end of the war was announced.
After the war, Annie settled on the Gulf Coast, taking a nursing job at the Biloxi VA. There, she met local photographer Robert McVadon in 1948. They would go on to have three children, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren during their 54-year marriage.
Her family remembers her as being loving and quick to laugh, telling endless stories and jokes. She is also remembered for the large meals she would often prepare, cooking classic country and coastal favorites to feed anyone who showed up at her dinner table.
“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.”
After the photo from McVadon’s funeral began going viral over the weekend, her family said they were pleasantly surprised to see such a tremendous outpouring of love and support by thousands of people.
It’s something that the 100-year-old matriarch would definitely have gotten a giggle over, they say.
“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.”
For Spc. Taylor, the photo is one he will also cherish, highlighting one of the things he loves about serving.
“It’s my honor to get to serve for that family and my country when the time comes,” he said. “And the photo was amazing. I love it!”
Wiley, who was attending the funeral from out of state, said she never imagined the photo would be shared as many times as it has.
“I really didn’t mean for it to get so much attention,” said Wiley. “I just wanted to express my appreciation. But now that it’s happened, I’m glad it’s helping to remind us of all the ways our military men and women do for us.”