It seems like honor and respect are becoming things of the past. People don’t respect their elders or honor the flag or the country’s veterans like they once did.
In decades past, there was a code of honor that everyone followed, but these days it seems no one remembers it or cares to follow it.
That’s why it was especially poignant when a total stranger stopped everything in the middle of the day to show a veteran honor and respect as he was taken to his final resting place.
Vietnam War veteran Phillip “Paw Paw” Dooley Sr. lost a long battle with cancer on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. His family was heartbroken to say goodbye to this beloved man gone too soon.
“It’s always tough saying goodbye, but to the man who was the rock in our family, it was something that I didn’t expect to do when he was 65,” said Shelby Sams, Dooley’s granddaughter.
As a procession of about 30 cars made its way from Langeland Memorial Chapel in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, to the Fort Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek, Dooley’s family noticed something that touched all of their hearts.
While some cars pulled over to let the procession pass and others sped around the line of cars, one man got out of his car and stood by the side of the road.
“There was a man who actually got out of his car, stood by his driver side door with his head bowed and his hands clasped in front of him for the entire procession,” Shelby said.
Shelby and her sister, Courtney Steffler, immediately burst into tears when they saw him.
“It was the greatest gesture of respect that I’ve ever seen,” Courtney said.
Another of Dooley’s grandchildren, Garrick Dooley, shared a photo of the kind stranger on his Facebook page in an effort to track the man down.
“My Grandfather was a simple man. He worked harder than anybody I’ve ever met—he loved even harder. This photo of the man showing respect, speaks volumes. It’s very rare to see in today’s society,” Garrick wrote. “To the man that gave respect to my PawPaw as we passed by on the way to Fort Custer, I want to say thank you. This lifted up many lowered heads today.”
Garrick asked friends and family to share the photo so he could find the man and shake his hand.
“I just want to say thank you. I’d like to take him to dinner and buy him ice-cream – that’s what my ‘Paw Paw’ would have done,”
After the funeral, the family noticed something else about the photo that made the man’s actions even more meaningful.
Dooley was a hard-working family man who enjoyed the simpler things in life. One of his favorite songs – one Shelby called his personal anthem – was “Daddy was Never a Cadillac Kind.” They even played the song at his funeral.
When the family noticed that the man in the photo was standing in front of a Cadillac, they took it as a sign from their Paw Paw up in heaven.
“[He’s] looking down on us saying, ‘We know you’re in pain but everything is going to be okay,’” Shelby said.
“I believe he was there and that was really the perfect message for him and maybe from him,” Courtney added.
The family hopes to track down the man so they can let him know how much his gesture truly meant to them.
“My Paw Paw really would have loved to shake the hand of that man, so if we could do that in his honor he would be very happy,” Shelby said.
If nothing else, they hope others will see the photo and be reminded that a small act of kindness can go a long way, even in the saddest and darkest of times.
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