Like most malls in America this time of year, the Concord Mall in Wilmington, Delaware is decked out for Christmas.
While frantic adults scramble to purchase gifts, a flurry of excited children wait in line, eager to meet Santa Claus and tell him all of their Christmas wishes.
On Dec. 1, while Santa took a quick cookie break, his eyes spotted someone that he simply had to speak with.
Santa approached the white-haired gentleman, who stood as Santa approached. It was 93-year-old Bob Smiley, a World War II veteran. Santa wanted to pay his respects.
Santa quickly clasped Smiley’s hands and went to a knee, a beautiful moment captured forever thanks to a photo taken by Gina Wilbur, who happened to witness the scene.
“I hear Santa telling the gentleman, in a soft voice, of others he knew who served,” Wilbur wrote on Facebook.
“He shakes his hand with genuine gratefulness thanking him for his service and returns to the children.”
Wilbur said it was the best moment of her day.
As Wilbur’s photo began to circulate on social media, it was noticed by of some of Smiley’s family.They loved the picture-perfect moment, thanking Wilbur for sharing it on social media.
On Dec. 6, Santa, Smiley, and some of Smiley’s children were reunited. They posed for a beautiful photo around the Christmas tree.
The group also appeared on “Good Day Philadelphia” to talk about the moment.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to men like this that have made such a life-changing decision to give of themselves, be willing to lay down their life even, for other people,” Santa told FOX29 Philadelphia.
Smiley said he doesn’t view his time in the military as a sacrifice. Rather, he says that going to war was simply what the men of his generation did.
“We all went, we all served,” Smiley 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.”
After all these years, Smiley is still so appreciative of those who end up stopping him to thank him for his service.
“I try to show my appreciation when they do thank me,” he said. “I thank them for thinking about us.”