The newest viral video star has been found, and (thankfully) this time it’s not just another cat. It’s actually a 95-year-old World War II veteran named Joe Bell, who dressed in his military uniform Sunday, Mar. 16 to cheer on participants in a race in his hometown of San Jose, California. Decked out in full military regalia from his years of service between 1942 and 1946, Bell smiled and waved to the colorful runners from a chair on his lawn as they passed by on the street.
But the viral-worthy part is what happened next.
First, one racer slowed his stride, ran over to Bell and shook his hand. Then another, and another, and another until one by one, runners from all different positions in the race had reached out to Bell and personally thanked him for his service. It’s all captured in a video that’s been making its way around the Internet, including on the ABC News website and the Today Show.
As Bell told ABC News, “They showed a lot of love to me, and they recognized me. I liked that.”
The video was shot by San Jose Mercury News reporter Julia Prodis Sulek after she looked out her window and saw a stream of people gathered near Bell’s home. The 8-kilometer race, known officially as the “San Jose 408K Race to the Row,” benefits the Pat Tillman Foundation, which helps provide scholarships for military veterans and their spouses.
This isn’t the first time a veteran video has gone viral. Last fall, a homeless vet named Jim Wolf was filmed being given a makeover — a haircut, a beard trimming and a brand new stylish suit. In addition, Wolf enrolled in counseling programs to help battle his addictions. That was all part of a marketing campaign for the Michigan charitable organization Degage Ministries.
But why do veterans need scholarship funds and public relations-sponsored makeovers in the first place? According to a 2013 Pentagon-funded, Congress-mandated report from the Institute of Medicine, veterans in the United States are facing postwar issues, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, in “significant numbers.” In other words, the more help that can be provided to military veterans, the better off they’re likely to be.
And it’s going to require more than just clever viral videos. It’s going to take legislation, the report recommended. Before that happens however, it is possible for people to make a difference on their own.
As easy as it is to click “like” or “share,” it’s always harder to actually take action. However, whenever you want to, there are always organizations in your area that would appreciate your help. For more information, look up some local charities and donation centers near you.