Army Lt. Col. Robert Risdon’s gaze fixed on the door of the Taco Bell as he noticed the two figures enter. He was tired, but his soldier’s eyes knew these two didn’t belong. His muscles were knotted with tension.
His intensive training as an Army Ranger had become a kind of muscle memory that he could access instantly should the need arise. He didn’t want trouble today. He stood frozen, his eyes never leaving the door. And then the shadowy figures made a sudden move towards him.
Robert Risdon was making his way home from an appearance at the Senior Bowl when he had a powerful hankering for some tacos.
He was ravenously hungry from the day’s events. When he pulled into the Taco Bell in the quiet town of Greenville, Alabama, he had no idea what this fateful day would have in store for him.
There are some people in the world who are always ready and willing to defend those in need, no matter the cost.
These people and their acts of bravery serve as a shining example for the rest of humankind. Risdon was no stranger to hardship, and as an Army Ranger, he had endured many. Little did he know that his decisive action in a Taco Bell in Alabama would go viral around the world.
The two figures blew into the Taco Bell on the wind. Risdon was tense with anticipation. The other diners froze mid-bite, and craned their heads to better see the intruders. The silence inside the Taco Bell was palpable.
It was raining heavily, and he could faintly hear the steady raindrops on the asphalt outside. The two silhouettes moved towards him like stark shadows against the flickering light from the neon sign above the door.
When Risdon was able to get a clearer view of the intruders, their appearance was the first thing that he noticed.
Their clothes were well-worn and rivets of rainwater spilled off the edges of their sleeves. He took these mental notes unthinkingly and unconsciously. He took stock of the larger figure, who had his hands firmly hidden in the pockets of a large black windbreaker. He was shaking. From cold, or from fear?
Lt. Col. Robert Risdon was no stranger to hunger, or extreme cold, for that matter. He had been stationed in Saudi Arabia, where his mettle was tested to the limit.
“I can’t even count the number of times I was cold, wet and hungry in the Army,” he said in an interview after the video of the incident in the Greenville Taco Bell went viral.
The two figures moved purposefully towards Risdon. He stood stock still. His mind was racing, and his hands were trembling.
It seemed like an age before they reached him. Then they did something that confirmed Risdon’s suspicions that they weren’t in Taco Bell to eat. And then there it was… The question that he had suspected all along.
The boys approached Risdon brazenly, and pointedly asked him if he had any cash. He realized that he didn’t.
He had never made a habit of carrying cash. Credit cards were less cumbersome and more efficient. Like him. He had trained in the Army. Everything he did was calculated and precise, and above all, efficient.
The video of Risdon’s quick reaction to the two strangers has accumulated more than 39,900 shares and over 1.8 million views on social media.
It was a man named Jason Gibson who witnessed the entire incident in the Taco Bell that rainy evening. Jason saw the situation unfolding before him and had the wherewithal to quickly pull out his phone and begin recording. Everyone on the internet is very grateful that he did.
Risdon’s unexpected reply to being asked if he had cash on him was to ask a question of his own.He directed it at the two boys so quickly that they were thrown off guard.
The boys looked wary, and they darted their eyes from the door to Risdon, and back again… weighing up if they should make their escape. Risdon broke the ice by asking: “Can you boys finish off 10 tacos?”
Risdon asked the boys if they had eaten, and they replied gingerly that they hadn’t. So the soldier escorted them to the counter of the Taco Bell, and told them that they could order whatever they wanted off the menu.
They explained that they were trying to raise funds for their local church by walking and selling all the candy they could door to door. The soldier was touched that they were raising funds for charity and admired their tenacity.
The boys, aged 9 and 13, hungrily and gratefully devoured their tacos in just a few bites. When Risdon saw them happily wolfing down the food at such a rate he knew he had made the right choice.
Seeing the two children smiling with their bellies full was all the thanks he needed. He had a few funny and heartwarming moments with the boys before they went on their way.
A particularly touching and humorous moment took place off camera when the younger of the two boys started to warm up to Risdon.
He clumsily tried to salute the soldier in thanks with one hand, while clutching the prized taco in the other. The soldier promptly showed him how to execute a proper salute, however the little boy was hard-pressed to part with his food – even for a few seconds.
Lt. Col. Robert Risdon is an American Hero, and everyone who sees the video of him helping out two hungry souls in need is just what the world needs.
When he was interrupted by the children while he was eating his dinner, he didn’t think twice about helping them. Being a father of two himself, Risdon empathized with the two poor souls when they entered Taco Bell, soaking wet from the rain and starving.
When asked about what he thinks about being a hero on social media, Risdon modestly said “I’m kinda embarrassed and humbled by the praise and don’t need it…
I think throughout my childhood I was around people who taught me there’s more to life than taking care of yourself.” Perhaps whoever raised him was onto something.
“It seemed like a very small gesture I could do for two kids that were trying to make some money in the rain on a school night,” said Risdon, who added that such generosity was just the way he was raised to behave.
“So, absolutely it was my duty to at least get them something to eat.” But he didn’t expect how the boys would react.
The youngest boy told Risdon, “you know, I want to be just like you someday.” This warmed the soldier’s heart more than he could ever explain. After all, he joined the military to serve his country, whether it was at home or abroad.
Being a little kid’s role model, especially one he had just met, made him feel good about his decision to serve. This was a heartwarming moment, and everyone who was there that day knew it.
Jason Gibson, who had accompanied Risdon to Taco Bell that evening, explained why he decided to record the whole interaction.
“When I saw him take the kids up to the counter I thought, you know, I’m gonna videotape this,” he said. “Because you see all the negative stuff on TV, I’m kinda tired of it.” He and Risdon are helping kindness spread.
Risdon described the boys as “two good kids and they’ve got good hearts.” Knowing all the potential in them, he decided to leave them with one piece of advice.
“When you’re older and you’re in a position to help someone out — don’t pass it up,” he said. The boys now have a promise to live up to, but what they don’t know is Risdon learned something from them too.
“They inspire me as much as I may have made them feel good by just filling their bellies a little bit,” said Risdon, after recounting how the boys told him how much they admired him.
This just goes to show we can all learn from each other, whether we are accomplished veterans or just a pair of kids trying to help our neighbors.