MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Bob Gay passed away during the coronavirus pandemic on April 1. Gay's immediate family was able to say goodbye in person during his final days, but not his friends, including fellow veteran Johnny Simmons.
Johnny Simmons giving one final salute to a World War II veteran who died amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gay was a World War II veteran. He served in the Army Corp of Engineers, flying missions in a B-17 bomber. He was 97.
Simmons is half his age but found a connection to Gay like they served without another, and not generations apart.
"We traded war stories, and turns out the Army hasn't changed much over the years," Simmons said.
Simmons served in Kuwait, and the Middle East during the War of Terror. He had to retire after 23 years, and decided to start volunteering at the Heartland Hospice care center. He met Gay in December of 2019.
Gay's health started declining. Gay's son, Andy, says that was around the time he first learned of Simmons and his volunteer work, and spending time trading war stories with his dad.
"I think it's awesome," Andy said.
What happened next, Andy thought was even more awesome. After his dad's death, Gay's family found out Simmons got dresses in full uniform and gave Gay a final salute.
"The salute to me was my way of saying thank you," Simmons said. " Thank you for defending our freedoms and being the man you are."
Simmons is encouraging people to reach out to veterans in this time. Do something good in the chaos that has been filled with a lot of bad.