Final Salute: WWII Vet Dons Uniform, Then Dies

GLENVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -
World War II veteran Justus Belfield, 98, saluting on Veterans Day Tuesday. He passed away the next day. (AP Photo/ Nancy McKiernan/Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)
World War II veteran Justus Belfield, 98, saluting on Veterans Day Tuesday. He passed away the next day. (AP Photo/ Nancy McKiernan/Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center)

On Veterans Day, Justus Belfield donned his Army uniform one more time, even though he was too weak to leave his bed at an upstate New York nursing home.

The 98-year-old World War II veteran died the next day.

Belfield had worn his uniform every Veterans Day since he and his wife moved into Baptist Health Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Glenville, outside Albany, several years ago. On Tuesday, the former master sergeant wasn’t able to get out of bed to participate in the facility’s Veterans Day festivities, so he had the staff dress him in his uniform.

He died early Wednesday morning.

Belfield, originally from Utica, spent 16 years in the Army, including a stint in Europe where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He also served during the Korean War as a recruiter in Syracuse. Belfield said last year he never regretted serving in the military.

“It was a good thing to do,” he said. “I loved it because it was my country. It’s still my country.”

Barbara Bradt, activities director at the nursing home, said Belfield 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,” she said.

Belfield and his wife, Lillian, have six children, 18 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

He was buried Friday with military honors at Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.