Army Colonel, photographer meet after viral photo

Act of love: Soldier in viral photo meets photographer

VINE GROVE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Army Col. Jack Usrey said it was just three or four minutes, standing in the pouring rain off to the side of the road, his arm raised in salute as a funeral process drove past him on Joe Prather Highway.

"I never thought anything about the funeral procession just because it's something I grew up doing," Usrey said. "It just happened so fast I almost didn't think. It's just I needed to pay my respects, got out of the jeep and came to attention, saluted the hearse and kept it until the last car came by."

RELATED: Driver snaps photo of soldier saluting funeral procession in pouring rain

Usrey said it was a simple act of respect, one he thought only those in the procession would see. But his gesture also caught the attention of another woman who was sitting in the rain behind him.

"Here's a gentleman who has zero idea who the deceased is or even their family are, and for that moment, he showed them the most respect I've ever encountered I've witnessed personally," Erin Hester said.

It took Hester only a fraction of a second to take the photo, a fraction of a second to capture a moment that will live for eternity, a moment she said was the greatest thing she's ever seen.

"He absolutely didn't care. For him at that moment, it seemed to be about honor, respect and just true humanity," she said.

Hester posted the photo on Facebook and from there, the picture took on a life of its own, having been shared more than 100,000 times.

"I think it had gotten to the point when I couldn't have gotten another number because there were so many," Hester said.

"First word I thought was 'Wow, I got busted doing something good. Wouldn't mama be proud,'" Usrey said.

Bonded by the special moment in the rain, the two decided to meet for the first time since the photo, greeting each other with a hug.

"One small act can change somebody's day," Hester said. "One small act may even change somebody's week or month or year or maybe change them completely."

"Think it shows there's goodness out there," Usrey said. "We just need to take advantage of it."

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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