Photo of West Virginia state trooper saluting funeral procession goes viral

A West Virginia trooper salutes a funeral procession. (Photo: Tonjia Ray-Tompkins)
A West Virginia trooper salutes a funeral procession. (Photo: Tonjia Ray-Tompkins)

These days, viral photos of law enforcement more often than not seem to be a point of heated contention and controversy. However, this was not the case when a West Virginia woman posted a photo of a state trooper who got out of his car to salute an entire funeral procession.

“There are so many negative associations with law enforcement. Cops may make people feel nervous. Why? Because they are usually there to enforce the law,” Tonjia Ray-Tompkins tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But not this day. Senior trooper R.L. Paynter stood in the cold rain and snow to pay his respects to someone in his community that he thought was a wonderful person and he loved.”

Paynter went above and beyond when leading the funeral procession for Ray-Tompkins’s loved one in Oceana, W.Va. he blocked traffic and stood to salute each car in the rain and snow until the entire procession made it to the gravesite.

Touched by the simple act of kindness, Ray-Tompkins took to social media to express her gratitude for the trooper and the locals of her hometown who paid their respects. “When I am so frustrated with living in West Virginia and wondering why I came home. This is why I came home!” Ray-Tompkins wrote on her Facebook page.

Her post was initially private until someone asked her to make it public so it could be shared. Ray-Tompkins has been overwhelmed by the response to her post, which now has more than 2,700 reactions and more than 980 shares.

I was moved by his actions because this just isn’t something you see unless it was a military, law enforcement [or] government official,” Ray-Tompkins tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My family member was a simple wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt and friend to many.”

Although the southern part of West Virginia has been tapped as a hot spot of the opioid crisis, Ray-Tompkins says it’s moments like these that make her proud of her small town. “People can say what they will but it will forever be my home! My roots! The people here are just different,” she says. “When it looks like packing and leaving is your next option just open your eyes. You may capture a moment like I caught that will change your mind.”

This isn’t the first time that the state trooper has done this act of service for his community. According to Ray-Tompkins, Paynter has paid the same respects to several other Oceana community members. Now Ray-Tompkins has been working to make sure that the officer gets his due respect, too.

“Thank you for your service and support to the Prichard family and every other family you have supported!” she says. “You stood quietly at the back at the service but you did not go unnoticed. We noticed you!”

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