'Patriotic' boy gives U.S. sailors secret salute in viral photo

Elise Solé
Jace Vega, 6, saluted members of the U.S. Navy at a Texas airport. (Photo: Courtesy of Joe Vega)

Jace Vega, a first-grader in Texas who idolizes the U.S. military, saluted a group of sailors when he believed no one was watching.

Priscilla Pinales-Vega and Joe Vega of New Braunfels, Texas shared the photo of their son’s spontaneous tribute on Facebook. “Captured this beautiful pic of Jace at the airport saluting our young military men and women as they walked by while waiting for my husband,” wrote Pinales-Vega on Saturday.

The family was waiting at San Antonio International Airport to surprise Vega after he flew home from a business trip in Colorado Springs. While Pinales-Vega was observing members of the U.S. Navy walking by, 6-year-old Jace stood tall and saluted. She took a photo before he realized he was being watched.

Texas father Joe Vega is proud of his son Jace for saluting members of the U.S. Navy at the airport. (Photo: Courtesy of Joe Vega)

“We are a very patriotic family and have taught our two sons to respect service members and first responders,” Vega, 32, a piping superintendent, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We visit military museums and we brought Dallas police officers pizza after the 2016 ambush.”

Recently, says Vega, the children were talking about their “heroes,” and voted their dad number one — with superheroes in second place.

“I said that real superheroes put their lives on the line for total strangers,” Vega tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They’re willing to live thousands of miles away in the desert or on the sea without seeing their loved ones for a long time.”

When Vega asked Jace why he saluted the service members, the boy answered, “Because they protect us and keep us safe.”

That photo has been liked and shared thousands of times.

Vegas says his son saluted with the wrong hand — according to the U.S. Navy, the right hand is typically utilized except in rare circumstances — but he is very proud of Jace.

“The photo shows innocence,” Vega tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He paid tribute to our country the only way he knew how.”

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