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Durango residents shocked by viral photo of man claiming to be his own father – The Durango Herald

“It’s a picture of him doing what he does every day, being the best person he can be,” says Bryan Welker

Durango resident Bryan Welker is 99.9 percent sure this is a picture of his father, Richard Welker, standing up from his wheelchair for the flag bearers. The picture, with the caption “The only person standing… is the guy in the wheelchair,” has been circulating online for years. Welker first saw it in a chain email he received Friday.

When Bryan Welker opened his email on Friday morning, he was shocked to come across a viral photo that has been circulating on the Internet for more than two decades showing a man who Welker said is clearly his own father.

The photo shows a man in a wheelchair doing his best to remain standing as the flag bearers of a parade approach his position on the parade route. The image shows about five other people to his left remaining seated on the curb. A caption in the top left reads: “The only person standing… is the man in the wheelchair.”

Although the man's face is turned away from the camera, Welker said he is 99.9 percent sure it is his father: Richard Welker, a U.S. Navy veteran, American history teacher and father of three who died in Riverside, California, in 2006.

What makes it so safe?

The man is wearing the same distinctive jacket and checkered pants his father wore. And the wheelchair has green armrests and a red bag hanging from the back – just like his father's. When he forwarded the picture to the rest of his family, they all agreed it couldn't be anyone else.

“It was truly one of my proudest moments,” Welker said after opening the email and recognizing who was in the photo. “It's a picture of him doing what he does every day, which is being the best person he can be.”

Welker opened the email on Friday, fittingly on National Flag Day. He said it was embedded in a mass email designed to stoke patriotic sentiments and possibly contempt for those who aren't patriotic enough.

He had never seen the photo before, but it had been circulating for years, shared on sites like Reddit, Pinterest and old online chat rooms. He believes the photo was taken in Riverside, California, in the late 1990s.

Durango resident Bryan Walker said he opened an email on Friday and found a viral picture of his father serving as a flag bearer in a parade in California several decades ago. (Courtesy of Brian Welker)

The photo, with the added caption, has sparked heated debate in some internet circles about the supposed lack of patriotism in modern America. Ironically, though, Welker said the most notable feature of his father's love for his country was how subtly he expressed it.

“He didn't wear red, white and blue face paint and yell at people,” Welker said. “He didn't say, 'How are you going to make America great?' You know what he did? He showed it.”

The best thing about being an American is having the freedom to decide for yourself whether you want to stand up for the flag or not, Welker's father said, his son said.

“When he was in the Navy, he said he was always happy to come back to an American port,” Welker said. “Because in every country he went to, there were always people trying to get out, and in America, people were just trying to get in.”

Welker said what touched him most was that someone else was moved enough to stand up and take the photo. Because of that, Richard Welker did in death what he did in life, which was to lead by example and let his actions speak louder than words, Welker said.

“He wasn't a radical patriot, he was a regular patriot,” Welker said. “But in the Boy Scouts, he made sure we got our patriotism badges, and he made sure we understood that the flag is not just a symbol, but an expression of how you feel.”

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