Justus “Jay” Belfield donned his Army uniform every Veterans Day without hesitation. But, for the 98-year-old WWII and Korean War veteran, last Tuesday would be his final chance to celebrate the country he served for 16 years.
Belfield passed away Wednesday morning, alongside his wife and family members at Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Scotia, New York.
Although he’d been too sick to enjoy the Veterans Day activities, Belfield wore his uniform in bed.
The veteran, who served at WWII’s Battle of the Bulge and the Cold War’s Berlin Airlift, was fiercely patriotic until the end.
On September 11 of this year, he stood through the entirety of “God Bless America” while in uniform.
Due to ailing health this past October, Belfield was forced to turn down an invitation to view Washington, DC’s WWII memorial alongside fellow veterans of the war.
Belfield moved into Baptist in April of 2013 to be closer to wife, Lillian, who was already a resident.
He reportedly never let his good cheer falter, greeting fellow nursing home tenants with the honk of a horn attached to his walker.
Barbara Bradt, activities director at Baptist, told the Daily Gazette,
He just had such a spark for life. He taught me no matter how old you are, you keep going, you put a smile on your face and you just appreciate every day, because that’s what he did.
Julie Stubbs Tutunjian, Belfield’s granddaughter, posted a statement to Facebook, saying,
Thank you everyone for your kind words. My grandfather was very proud to have served his country. Our family is sad of his passing, but we know he is with the Lord now.
To date, an image of a uniformed Belfield saluting from his nursing home bed has been shared over 100,000 times from local news network WTEN’s Facebook page.
Dozens of veterans, young and old, have posted images of themselves saluting Belfield in return.