96-year-old WWII veteran goes viral with touching national anthem performance


96-year-old WWII veteran touches the hearts of millions after performing a heartfelt rendition of the national anthem at a Michigan baseball game – 78 years after fighting in the war

  • John Pylman, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at a West Michigan Whitecaps game on Thursday, August 5, at LMCU Ballpark 
  • A video of the performance shows Pylman holding the mic stand with two hands as he passionately belts out the patriotic song  
  • Singing the anthem means a great deal to the World War II veteran, who enlisted in the Air Force in 1943 and was stationed in England 
  • The Whitecaps shared a video of Pylman’s performance on its Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times 


A 96-year-old World War II veteran has captured the hearts of millions after singing a patriotic rendition of the national anthem at a minor league baseball game. 

John Pylman, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, wowed the crowd at a West Michigan Whitecaps game on Thursday, August 5, when he performed ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at LMCU Ballpark in Comstock Park. 

‘To me, it means the United States of America, worth fighting for,’ he told MLive of singing the national anthem. ‘God’s blessed us with this wonderful country, let’s take care of it. It’s worth fighting for.’

Incredible rendition: John Pylman, 96, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, sang ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at a West Michigan Whitecaps game on Thursday, August 5, at LMCU Ballpark

Patriot: Singing the anthem means a great deal to the World War II veteran, who enlisted in the Air Force in 1943 and was stationed in England

Patriot: Singing the anthem means a great deal to the World War II veteran, who enlisted in the Air Force in 1943 and was stationed in England

A video of the performance shows Pylman removing his cap and placing it in his walker before belting out the song’s opening lyrics. The veteran is holding the mic stand with two hands as he passionately sings the anthem.  

Pylman enlisted in the Air Force in 1943, a year after he graduated high school, and was stationed in England, MLive reported. He told the outlet that he lost ‘some dear friends’ in the war, including five people from his ninth-grade class. 

During the war, Pylman served as a navigator on-board the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, serving as a member of the Eighth Air Force.  

When he returned home, he went to college and became a principal at Rogers High School in Wyoming, a position he held from 1957 to 1980. 

Pylman said he auditioned to sing the national anthem at the ballpark after he saw someone else take on the role at a Whitecaps game and thought, ‘Hey, I could do that.’

He has sung the anthem at eight previous Whitecaps games, but his ninth and most recent performance may be the most memorable one yet.   

Viral sensation: The Whitecaps shared a video of Pylman singing the national anthem at the game on its Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times

Viral sensation: The Whitecaps shared a video of Pylman singing the national anthem at the game on its Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times

Emotional moment: Fans said they were brought to tears by the performance, with many taking to the video's comments to thank Pylman for his service

Emotional moment: Fans said they were brought to tears by the performance, with many taking to the video’s comments to thank Pylman for his service

History: Pylman enlisted in the Air Force in 1943 and served as a navigator on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress plane with the Eighth Air Force in England. Pictured are unnamed members of the Eighth Air Force

History: Pylman enlisted in the Air Force in 1943 and served as a navigator on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress plane with the Eighth Air Force in England. Pictured are unnamed members of the Eighth Air Force

The Whitecaps shared a video of Pylman singing the national anthem at the game on its Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than 3.7 million times. 

Fans said they were brought to tears by the performance, with many taking to the comments to thank Pylman for his service. 

‘Thank you Sir for your service to our Country and for keeping us safe,’ one person wrote. ‘I also want to thank you very much for singing our National Anthem. That was a tear jerker, and so incredibly proudly done! Thank you!’

‘Beautiful. And that sung by one of our true heroes. One of the last of our greatest generation,’ someone else shared.  

‘And he meant and felt every word he sang,’ another added. 

Pylman told MLive that he ‘can’t believe’ his performance went viral, saying: ‘That’s my attitude right now — I just can’t believe it. I was amazed at the crowd’s reaction, and I thought, okay, this is a good thing to have done.’

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