At one point in time, Joe Bell would have likely been in the race, running alongside everyone else.
But at age 95, the World War II veteran seemed content sitting by the road in his uniform and cheering on participants in the 408k Race, an 8-kilometer run in San Jose, Calif., that benefits the Pat Tillman Foundation, a nonprofit that funds scholarships for military veterans and their spouses.
The runners, however, had other plans: Many spontaneously diverted from the race to approach Bell and thank him for his service.
A video of the tribute, captured by the San Jose Mercury News, shows Bell standing by the side of the road, receiving applause from nearly every runner who passes.
"Thank you for your service," says one racer, who deviated from the road to shake Bell's hand. He's followed by another, and another, until a crowd forms. Instead of trying to win the race, the runners are focused on politely giving Bell a handshake and a thank-you.
The Pat Tillman Foundation was created in honor of Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals player who, prompted by the events on 9/11, left the NFL in 2002 to become an Army Ranger. NBC reports he was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 by friendly fire.
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