Runners Give Spontaneous Tribute To 95-Year-Old WWII Vet Who Came To Cheer - Heartwarming!

<p>Everyone on the block knows Joe Bell. Whether he's tinkering with his old fishing boat in the driveway or telling old World War II stories from the sidewalk, neighbors always stop to chat. Once in a while he dons his old uniform, which still fits his thin, 95-year-old frame, and wears it to the senior center for lunch on Veterans Day or to meet with other old vets. He put it on again Sunday morning, and I captured a moment that not only restores faith in the kindness and patriotism of Americans, but became a viral video that has been broadcast by the NBC Today Showand a host of other news outlets. Runners in the annual Pat Tillman Foundation race in San Jose detoured to thank 95-year-old World War II veteran Joe Bell for his service. Runners in the annual Pat Tillman Foundation race in San Jose detoured to thank 95-year-old World War II veteran Joe Bell for his service. (Julia Prodis Sulek/Mercury News) On Sunday morning, Joe walked out to the sidewalk to cheer on runners competing in San Jose's 408K Race that runs through our Rose Garden neighborhood and benefits the foundation for fallen Army Ranger Pat Tillman, a San Jose native. I awoke to the sound of the race, sat up in bed and looked out the window. Why are some of the racers running on the sidewalk? I looked down the street and saw Joe in uniform with runners shaking his hand. I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, grabbed my camera and feared I had missed the moment. I had the journalistic instinct to capture it, but perhaps more than that, Joe is such a beloved figure on the block and he's getting so old that I wanted to document this sweet moment, perhaps for him, his family, I didn't know. When I got outside, the parade of well-wishers had waned, but when Joe started clapping for the runners, they started cheering back at him. I started the video running, and then one runner pulled off the street and over to the sidewalk. "Thanks for your service," he said. I couldn't help but choke up as the tribute continued. He seemed surprised, a bit overwhelmed. I just hoped no one would knock him over as they reached out to shake his hand. Joe is hard of hearing. You have to almost shout for him to hear you. But he is as sharp as ever. He swims nearly every day at the YMCA. His wife died several years ago and one of his grown sons lives with him. Ambulances come and go from his house late at night from time to time. He says he doesn't think he's going to live much longer. He's lived a good long life, he says, and is ready to join his wife. But on Sunday morning, he was very much alive, appreciated by strangers who could tell just by one look, that this was a special man with a story. And perhaps most amazing of all, the runners kept coming in waves throughout the race, running down the sidewalk, shaking his hand and thanking him for serving his country.</p>