It was a drizzly, dreary morning in 2014 — the day of the San Jose 408K Marathon. Joe Bell, a 95-year-old WWII veteran and paratrooper, stepped outside his home to show his support as the runners passed by; the Marathon’s charity partner is the Tillman Foundation, which funds scholarships for military veterans and their spouses. The Foundation is named after fallen Army Ranger and football star Pat Tillman.
When one runner detoured off course to shake Joe’s hand, it set off an incredible chain reaction. One by one, the runners veered off the road and ran up to the veteran, quickly shaking his hand, looking him in the eye, and thanking him for his service. The more runners who shook his hand, the more you can see how much Joe took delight in the kind, unexpected gesture.
After the video below was posted to YouTube, it went viral and made Joe an internet star. In turn, he was named grand marshal of a local Fourth of July parade and was honored with his own baseball trading card by the San Jose Giants. In January of 2015, Joe passed away. His family said the outpouring of attention he got to experience in the months before his death completely reinvigorated him. For the 2015 San Jose Marathon, Joe’s chair now sat outside his home, a tribute to the community’s hero.
I’m pretty confident it’s impossible for anyone to watch this without feeling pride. Please SHAREthis video and help remember this American hero.