Newly commissioned lieutenant gives first salute to grandpa behind a pane of glass

Jack Murphy
May 14, 2020 - 11:16 am
First salute

Courtesy of Tom Hanafin

When a new officer is commissioned into the military, they often choose their first salute to be rendered to a non-commissioned officer who had a particular influence on them or a family member who had a big impact on them growing up.

Second Lt. Tommy Hanafin of Bedford, Mass. chose his grandpa Richard as his first salute. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the salute had to be rendered through a pan of glass at the VA nursing home where his grandfather lives. Richard is currently recovering from COVID-19.

"My Grandfather, CPL Richard Hanafin served as a Forward Observer with the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division and fought in battles such as the Battles of Pusan Perimeter, Ch'ongch'on' River, and Chipyong Ni. He was one of the first to arrive to Pusan on July 31st, 1950 and was rotated back to the United States In May of 1951. Where he was soon discharged from the Army," Tom Hanafin told Connecting Vets.

The younger Hanafin earned his commission through ROTC at the University of Maine, and is branching as a aviation officer with 3-126 AV BN. His next stop is flight school at Ft. Rucker, Ala.

It was an emotional moment for the family members present. Richard was just recently able to see his wife for the first time in months as he had to be quarantined while he was infected with the coronavirus. They have been married for 64 years.

"The medical staff and social workers at the VA have been incredible," Lt. Hanafin said. "They are taking excellent care of my grandfather and all other patients there. Often assisting my grandfather use his flip phone so he can talk to us. And once a week a very kind social worker does a video call with him to my extended family, where it is usually about 10-15 of us. He enjoys seeing all of our faces and saying a prayer with us as well."

Richard Hanafin speaks to his wife of 64 years
Courtesy of Tom Hanafin

Veteran's nursing homes and VA hospitals have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. Twenty-nine people tested positive for COVID in a VA hospital in Portland, Ore. this week. Last month, a veteran's home in Paramus, N.J. had 37 people die in two weeks -- a spike so significant that the New Jersey National Guard deployed medics and health care workers to help contain the virus and treat patients. 

Because of the dire situation that COVID-19 places the elderly in, young officers like Tom Hanafin rightly take proper precautions and use social distancing, while also showing respect for the soldiers who came before.

"I held the salute a little longer than you normally would because I could just feel the emotion and how much it meant to all of us as a family.  Talking to him on the phone the next day, you could just tell it certainly lifted his spirit," Lt. Hanafin said.

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Reach Jack Murphy: or @JackMurphyRGR.