Race participants pay tribute to WWII vet cheering them on - WKRN News 2

Race participants pay tribute to WWII vet cheering them on

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -

A 95-year-old war veteran who donned his uniform to cheer on participants in a race got a heart-warming tribute from the runners instead.

According to Mercury News, Joe Bell is well-known in his San Jose neighborhood, often chatting with neighbors and passersby, sharing stories from World War II.

Bell puts on his uniform occasionally, like when he visits a senior center for Veterans Day or meets other local veterans.

But when he decided to do so Sunday, March 2, he got quite the response.

A race benefiting a foundation for fallen Army Ranger Pat Tillman was set to go down his street, so Bell put on his uniform to cheer on the runners from the sidewalk.

The news site says Bell clapped and cheered, often calling out phrases like, "Go get em'!"

The runners cheered and waved back at Bell, who returned a salute after one runner did so from the street.

Eventually, one man decided to run to the sidewalk and shake Bell's hand mid-stride, thanking him for his service before running along.

That small action started a chain reaction of tributes from the strangers in the race.

Runner after runner swerved off the road to where Bell stood on the sidewalk, taking time out of the race to shake his hand.

They came in waves, some offering hugs and others thankful words.

The newspaper notes Bell looks surprised, and, at times, overwhelmed.

"I never got recognition in my life," he told media. "I was a jumper in the OSS. That's all."

Bell, born in 1919, joined the U.S. Army in 1942.  The former Army corporal trained paratroopers for the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, which preceded the CIA.

"They hugged me and kissed me and the young men shook my hands," he said. "I never knew there were that many people that would do that."

Bell now lives with his one of his seven children, Matt.  His wife, Mary, died four years ago.

Check out the heartwarming moment on YouTube.

*Mercury News contributed to this report.

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