A Fort Hood Soldier, who made headlines after he was photographed saluting a veteran’s funeral procession in the pouring rain, lost his home in a fire Saturday evening.
The fire started at Specialist Kenneth Varnes' Killeen home just after 5 p.m. Varnes said while cleaning the house, his wife ran over to the other side of the home where he was and told him to grab their nine-month-old daughter and evacuate.
He said wiring issues may have been the cause of the fire. The blaze spread to the whole house, and as a result, the home was a total loss.
A GoFundMe was started by his mother-in-law Sunday to help the family. The soldier known for the viral photo said he is usually the one to help others and said he had to swallow his pride.
“I’m big on pride,” he said. “I’m the one that’s always there to help.”
Varnes reflected on that day in March and explained why he stepped out of his truck to salute the fallen veteran.
“I was coming down 195 northbound, and it was pouring rain," Varnes said. "I saw a cop car and a hearse."
He decided to pull over for the funeral because that is what he was taught to do. However, once he saw the American flag during the procession, he got out of the car and saluted on that rainy day.
Specialist Varnes has been in the Killeen/Fort Hood area for two years. He is originally from north central Florida near Gainesville.
The main reason he joined the military was he often talked to his grandfather about his experience in the Vietnam War. Varnes said his grandfather passed away days before his 16th birthday. His last conversation with his grandfather was about his military experience. The conversation stuck with him and influenced him to stick with it and join.
“I love this country and will do anything to protect it,” he said.
Varnes said his family wants to thank everyone who donated, and they appreciate everything that has come their way.
Donations can also be dropped off at Goode Towing, C/O Varnes Family, 5209 S Fort Hood St., Killeen, TX 76542