A World War II veteran's salute-worthy surprise has touched hearts and received millions of social media views after the stirring tribute was captured on video earlier this month.
The video posted on Facebook shows Chief Selects from the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center visiting the Gardena home of veteran Ernest Thompson, who served on the USS Missouri during World War II, on Aug. 13. The sailors performed "Anchors Aweigh" in front of Thompsons' house as he stood on the porch in salute, and neighbors came out of their homes to watch.
Each sailor then thanked Thompson and shook his hand.
Thompsons' grandson Jonathan Williams wrote in the post that his grandfather called it one of the best days of his life. Williams, CEO of the Battleship IOWA Museum in San Pedro, visited the USS Missouri with his grandfather in 2000, part of a bond between generations.
"I witnessed an 82-year-old man become 18 again and a flood of emotions that affected all that were present tremendously," Williams wrote on Facebook.
Battleship Missouri launched in January 1944 and entered the Pacific battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. On Sept. 2, 1945, Allied and Axis power representatives met aboard the ship to sign copies of the Instrument of Surrender, marking the end to World War II.
USS Missouri also was part of the Korean War. The ship now serves as a museum at Pearl Harbor.
The emotional tour of the battleship convinced Williams to help preserve the USS Iowa, which opened to the public in July 2012 as a naval museum at a berth in the Port of Los Angeles. Members of the Chief Selects worked with an IOWA volunteer coordinator to pull off the surprise for his grandfather.
"When they found out that my grandfather was unable to visit the (USS IOWA) lately due to health reasons, they decided to take it to him," Williams wrote.
His original Facebook video had more than 4.5 million views Wednesday morning.