Runners’ touching tribute turns WWII vet into a viral video hero

Runners in the San Jose 408K Marathon made a touching gesture which was captured on video that has since gone viral.

WWII veteran Joe Bell, 95, was standing out on the sidewalk in inclement weather Sunday cheering on the runners, when one took a spontaneous detour to shake his hand. One by one, other runners followed, thanking him for his service.

“They began to pile up. For a moment, I worried Joe might get knocked over,” the woman who captured it on video, Mercury News’ Julia Prodis Sulek said. “But as I recorded, I couldn’t help but get choked up to see this sweet old man, beloved by his neighbors, receiving a parade of tributes from strangers.”

A former Army corporal, Bell was overwhelmed by the support of the runners.

“I never got recognition in my life,” he told Prodis Sulek Tuesday. “I was a jumper in the OSS. That’s all.”

The race was organized by the Pat Tillman Foundation, which funds scholarships for military veterans. Tillman was a San Jose all-around athlete who gave up a career in the NFL to serve in the U.S. Army. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Watch the video here:

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