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Local photographer captures veteran saluting at parade; nation rallies to successfully find him

Local photographer captures veteran saluting at parade; nation rallies to successfully find him

Sav McKee

Ryan J. Childress, local Westerville photographer, could have never imagined that a photo he took at his daughter’s Christmas parade would garner national attention and provoke a city-wide scavenger hunt for a man in a green jacket.

On December 3, Childress captured a photo of a gentleman in a green jacket saluting as the service flag corps made its way down the street, marching proudly in the parade. 

“The man caught my attention because he reminded me of my own father,” Childress explained. “He stood in the cold wearing a retro styled bright green shiny jacket, and a cap to keep his head warm.  I immediately smiled and appreciated his presence…At that time, taking a photo was not even on my mind, as my concentration was directed at the servicemen walking [in the parade].  It was then that ‘the man in the green jacket’ lifted his right arm to salute that American flag.  Aware of what was happening, I quickly raised my camera and snapped off two shots roughly 20 seconds apart.”

The famous photo, taken by Childress

When going through the photos later on, Childress realized he caught a touching moment, and asked around on social media in hopes that he could give the image to the man. Within hours of posting the picture to search for him, there were around 20,000 shares and 1.5 million views of the image.

“The post had become a movement that people could get behind. The story that none of us knew we needed.  A search for a cute little man saluting his flag, so he could be presented a gift of gratitude for his simple gesture.  A fairytale of sorts,” Childress emphasized.


But even with the millions of views and thousands of shares, the man in the green jacket couldn’t be found, and Childress eventually started losing hope. After hundreds of leads later though, a family member reached out to him, and Don (the man in the green jacket!) and his wife Susan agreed they should meet in-person so that Childress could gift him the print of the photograph.

“We met at a local coffee shop and greeted each other.  After getting a couple of drinks ordered up, we sat down together at a small table in the corner.  We all looked at each other and began to laugh.  We were bonded from that day forward.  Together we had gone through the craziest week of social media that any of us had ever witnessed, and we were in the middle of it all,” said Childress. 

Childress said that Don is, “exactly what we all hoped for; kind, humble, shy, soft spoken, and proud. I truly could not have asked for a better subject for one of my photographs.”

In response to the image, Childress began selling prints of it, with all proceeds donated to a local Veteran based charity called Honor Flight Columbus. You can check out Childress’ photos here, and even buy the print there, too!

Want to read more? Check out our print publications, (614) Magazine and Stock & Barrel. Learn where you can find free copies of our newest issues here!


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