Santa Claus is being recognized for honoring a veteran at Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware. Gina Wilbur was walking through the mall when she snapped a photo of the heartwarming moment when Santa Claus got down on one knee to thank 93-year-old World War II veteran Bob Smiley for his service. She shared the photo on Facebook, where it went viral and was seen by members of the veteran's family.
"I hear Santa telling the gentleman, in a soft voice, of others he knew who served. He shakes his hand with genuine gratefulness thanking him for his service and returns to the children. Best moment of my day" Wilbur wrote in her post.
When Smiley's family saw the photo, they reached out to Wilbur to thank her for sharing the moment with the world.
Santa, Smiley, and Wilbur were all reunited on Good Day Philadelphia, where St. Nick explained why he went over to thank Smiley.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to men like this, that have made such a life-changing decision to give up themselves, be willing to lay down their life even, for other people."
Smiley said that his generation viewed serving in the military as a "duty" and that almost everybody wanted to enlist to fight in World War II.
“We all went, we all served,” he said. “Every boy in my high school graduating class all served. Out of 35 boys, five were killed and they were my friends for 13 years of my life.”
Smiley said that he appreciates the kind words and gestures from strangers.
“I try to show my appreciation when they do thank me,” he said. “I thank them for thinking about us.”