A 95-year-old WWII veteran just wanted to cheer on the runners who were passing by his house. But to his surprise, they were more interested in cheering for him—with many of the runners leaving the race to shake his hand and thank him for his service.
"They hugged me and kissed me and the young men shook my hands," the 95-year-old later told his neighbor—a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News—who caught part of the spontaneous tribute on her cell phone. "I never knew there were that many people that would do that."
"I never got recognition in my life," he added.
According to his neighbor, Joe is hard of hearing but "sharp." But sadly, his health is deteriorating:
He swims nearly every day at the YMCA or the senior center. Still, ambulances come and go from his house late at night when he feels his heart race and worries he's having a heart attack. He tells me from time to time he doesn't think he's going to live much longer. He's had a good long life, he says, and is ready to join his wife.
The runners were competing in an 8k to benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation in honor of the young NFL player who left his football career to join the Army after the 9/11 attacks. Tillman was killed in friendly fire in 2004. According to Joe's neighbor, swarms of people continued to approach him after she stopped taping.
"I thought the video caught a moment in time that was honest," his son Matt said. "There was nothing staged about it. It was an honest response from honest people. We don't see that too much."
He told the reporter that it was the most excited he's seen his father in a long time.