Americans nationwide reacted to a now-viral photo of a 98-year-old veteran who, too ill to attend the annual Veterans Day celebrations last week, asked that he be dressed in his uniform.
Justus Belfield was too weak to leave his bed, but The Daily Gazette of Schenectady reported that he has worn his uniform every Veterans Day since he and his wife moved to a nursing home in upstate New York several years ago.
It was the last time Belfield, who passed away early Wednesday morning, ever wore his uniform.
“I could see him breathing, and I leaned down and I looked at him and I said, ‘Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service,'" Christine Camp, who works at the home, recalled.
Belfield's response, pictured below, will never be forgotten:
This Nov. 11, 2014 photo provided courtesy of Nancy McKiernan of Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Glenville, N.Y., shows 98-year-old World War II veteran Justus Belfield saluting on Veterans Day. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Nancy McKiernan/Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)
"Godspeed Sarge," one Daily Gazette commenter wrote. Another added: "God bless and rest you, sir. Thank you for your service."
Commenters at The Huffington Post were equally full of praise for the 98-year-old veteran.
"I was approached a few years ago by on old vet," one wrote. "[He wore a] WW2 victory medal, his Pacific campaign ribbon, and a bronze star with four clusters, an arrowhead, and a 'V' device. I felt unworthy to polish this old man's boots. Respect for these old guys. They were tougher than we are."
"That's a powerful picture, and it exemplifies everything about that generation. RIP," another commenter wrote.
The Associated Press reports that Belfield served for 16 years in the Army, participating in -- among other historic battles -- the Battle of the Bulge.
The Daily Gazette adds that Belfield was discharged multiple times, but always re-enlisted "right away."
He told the paper in 2013: “I loved it because it was my country. It’s still my country. I don’t like the president. I don’t like the way he handles things, but it’s still the United States. It’s still my country.”
Camp said Belfield lit up the hallways of the nursing home, waking up each day with a smile saying: "Thank you, Jesus, for another day."
"He loved the family, he loved his country, and he loved God," Robert Stubbs, Belfield's son in law, said. "Those three things right there will be his legacy."