This Picture Went Instantly Viral. Here’s Why.

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What does true character look like? It isn’t what happens during a photo-op. The best evidence of character comes from the behaviors no one else observes. Cole Dotson displayed true character this week when, as he was passing his school, he saw the American flag had fallen down the flagpole.

Dotson pulled over and stepped up. He took the flag and held it off of the ground until help arrived to secure it.

“The flag fell to the ground,” his mother wrote proudly,  “he saw it, stopped and held it until someone from school could come and put it back up.”

Character obviously runs in the Dotson family. It was his grandmother, who works at the school, who answered Cole’s call and came to help him raise the flag again. She took the picture above.

Since then, others who share Dotson’s convictions and patriotism have been sharing his story. There’s something about an 18 year-old who steps up like this in such a simple and selfless way that makes many of us optimistic about the future of America.

during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.

during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.

“Thank you all for the support! I didn’t intend to get recognized for what I did,” Cole wrote. “But I am sure glad to see the support and respect for the flag. I love this flag and this country. God bless America.”

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What’s the big deal about the flag touching the ground? It is one of the ultimate signs of disrespect for the flag that, for our country and the rest of the world, stands as the most recognizable symbol of America. Flags that touch the ground, get worn down, or are otherwise stripped of their power are retired and burned, but in what is a very respectful and symbolic ceremony.

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Dedicated readers will not be surprised when I say that Cole was a former Boy Scout. And what’s in store for his future? He plans on joining the military this summer and will take his commitment to service to a whole new level.