Runners Pause Mid-Race to Thank 95-Year-Old Vet

WWII vet Joe Bell was cheering them on
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2014 1:01 PM CST

Runners in a San Jose race Sunday willingly added a few seconds to their time in order to thank a veteran, in a spontaneous and touching display that's garnered more than a little attention. The 408K Race is an 8-kilometer race benefiting the Pat Tillman Foundation, which helps military vets. WWII veteran Joe Bell stood on the sidelines, in full military uniform, cheering on the runners ... and then one of them diverted from the course so he could shake the 95-year-old's hand. Others followed, and a stream of people thanked Bell for his service, Mashable reports.

How the now-viral video came about was a lucky accident: San Jose Mercury News reporter Julia Prodis Sulek lives two houses down from Bell, and shot the 45-second video on her iPhone after noticing runners initially waving to and even saluting Bell. "They began to pile up," she writes. "For a moment, I worried Joe might get knocked over." Bell later told her, "I never got recognition in my life." The first runner to shake Bell's hand has since been identified as Erik Wittreich, himself a vet: a former Green Beret who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. (More military veterans stories.)

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