This World War II vet cheering for marathoners never expected the tables to turn

"I never got recognition in my life," Joe Bell said. 

 

Audra Schroeder

IRL

Published Mar 5, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 4:26 pm CDT

On Sunday morning, 95-year-old Joe Bell donned his World World II uniform, and sat in front of his home in San Jose, Calif. The vet was there to support marathoners participating in the 408K Race, a run benefiting the Pat Tillman Foundation.

San Jose Mercury News reporter Julia Prodis Sulek, who lives two doors down from Bell, happened to be filming the race, and captured something amazing. As Bell stood waving to the runners, an exodus of sorts took place. One by one, they left the marathon path to thank him for his service and shake his hand. Soon, a crowd swarmed Bell, all wanting to say thank you.

Bell, a former Army corporal, later told Sulek that he’d “never got recognition in his life.” Now, he’s become a bit of a star. Bell’s son, Matt, pinpointed what made so many peoplecivilians and militaryclick on and share the video:

“I thought the video caught a moment in time that was honest,” Matt Bell said. “There was nothing staged about it. It was an honest response from honest people. We don’t see that too much.”

In Sulek’s article, she says Bell still swims everyday, and wears his uniform to veterans’ events, but he often tells her he doesn’t think he’ll live much longer. As an impromptu tribute to his life, from strangers no less, the moment was as honest as it gets.

 

Screengrab via PATOSHD/YouTube

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*First Published: Mar 5, 2014, 2:53 pm CST