Lt. Col. Bobby Risdon never expected the attention of 132,000 people for a charitable gesture in a Taco Bell in Greenville, Ala.
Risdon was driving back from Mobile with Columbus Lions coach Jason Gibson. The two had gone to see college players practice for the Senior Bowl. Gibson recommended Risdon, the defensive line coach, wear his Army uniform to represent the service. The two stopped to eat when two boys selling baked goods for their church came into the restaurant.
“They’re both soaking wet,” Risdon said. “Clearly they’re cold and hungry. I said, ‘Let’s get you some food.’”
Gibson pulled out his phone and filmed Risdon asking the boys what they wanted to eat. Gibson posted it on Facebook Tuesday. The video has been viewed 132,121 times and shared by more than 3,000 people. Risdon said he’s received supportive messages from as far away as Australia. Gibson said several media outlets, including "Good Morning America" and "The Today Show" have contacted him.
The Lions coach said he filmed the interaction because he wanted people to see the good that soldiers do on the home front.
"They see a good thing, and maybe they're going to go tell someone what they saw," Gibson said. "You never know who's watching."
I was in a taco bell tonight when two kids came in trying to sell home made desserts for money. I over heard a soldier ask the kids if they were hungry and told them to follow him to the counter, he would buy them dinner. I had to video it and share. Our troops are always taking care of us. Thank u LTC Robert Risdon please please share this....I heard the little one say I want to be just like u when I grow up and saluted him.Posted by Jason Gibson on Tuesday, January 26, 2016
“I was pretty happy to do it,” he told the Ledger-Enquirer. “I’ve got two children myself, and I can’t imagine my 9-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son running around in the rain having to do that and being cold, wet and hungry.”
Risdon said he didn’t know much about the two boys, but he could make a few guesses based on their appearance. The older one was 13 and said his name too quickly for Risdon to catch. The younger one was named BJ. He was 9 and the back of his heel had torn a hole in the bottom of his pants, which were too long for him.
Both were polite and thankful to Risdon, who bought bought them a 10-taco meal with his debit card. Risdon told the Ledger-Enquirer he did not know the boys’ situation, but they were trying to sell baked goods in a Taco Bell at 9 p.m. and said they had not eaten dinner yet.
“I certainly felt they needed someone to give them some sort of break, and ten tacos seemed to be a way to do it,” Risdon said.
The soldier said the boys inhaled the food, finishing each taco in seconds.
“I was just happy they left there with some food,” he said. “I’ve been around the world and to some pretty yucky places and I think I can tell when someone hasn’t eaten in a while.”
Risdon is the deputy brigade commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning. He said he served four tours overseas since 9/11, two apiece in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Risdon said he sat and talked with the boys during the meal. He said BJ knew he was a soldier and thanked him for being willing to die to protect them.
“That struck me more than anything, that this 9-year-old kid knew that I was a soldier and knew what I did, knew what soldiers do,” Risdon said.
BJ was so enamored with Risdon that the boy tried to salute him several times during the meal. Risdon said he saluted back. He told the Ledger-Enquirer the whole thing felt humorous, like a scene out of a movie.
Right now, the deputy brigade commander is just surprised with the response Gibson’s video has received.
“I don’t need (the praise and accolades),” Risdon said. “I think America is a great place and I think stuff like this happens every day. It’s just not necessarily videotaped.”
He cited his upbringing in Catholic schools as one reason why he stopped to help the boys.
“I had a wonderful family life with two parents who really taught me what was right and wrong,” Risdon said. “I learned from a very young age that in this world not everything is about you. If you can help somebody else out, you should take the opportunity to do it. Even if it’s a small gesture to be kind to somebody, it’s something you should think about every day. And that’s kind of why I did it.”