Friendship is one of the most important things in the world. What would our lives be without the people who make us laugh so hard we can barely breathe, console us when we’re inconsolable, and do everything they can to support us?
Life can be tough, and sometimes difficult experiences make friendships ever tighter – whether it’s the result of you and a friend coming out of a relationship at the same time, or witnessing something truly traumatizing together.
And if that bond is tight enough, you’ll probably be in each other’s lives until the day you die.
That’s exactly how it was for Vietnam veterans Marine Master Sgt. William Cox and Marine First Sgt. James ‘Hollie’ Hollingsworth. They met all the way back in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
The veterans both served in the VMO-2 Marine helicopter squadron. Hollingsworth served as a mechanic and door gunner and Cox served as an ordnance chief and a door gunner.
The two men met under particularly frightening circumstances; they had entered into a bunker in an attempt to escape the rockets and mortar, and it was this very meeting that ultimately bonded them for life.
It was New Year’s Eve, and they had both been serving in their respective positions in the Marble Mountains. They were both terrified that they would never make it out of the bunker alive. So what did they do?
To comfort each other, they decided to make a pact that if they both survived, they would make sure to get in touch with each other every year on New Year’s Eve as a way of commemorating their escape from an untimely death.
For the next 50 years, the pair kept their promise and never fell out of touch with one another.
Unfortunately, Hollingsworth fell ill earlier this year, and he was visited by Cox, who traveled all the way from his home in South Carolina to Georgia in order to reunite with his old buddy.
Eighty-three-year-old Cox, however, was devastated to learn that his friend of 50 years was on his deathbed.
When he arrived, Hollingsworth, who clearly didn’t have much strength, asked for one final thing from his old buddy. He wanted him to promise to stand guard over his coffin and deliver the eulogy at his funeral.
“I said, ‘Boy, that’s a rough mission you’re assigning me to there,'” Mr Cox recalled to Greenvilleonline.com.
Hollingsworth’s son, Bill, was present at their final meeting, and he decided to photograph the sad occasion and upload the photo to Facebook.
“Two great marines were reunited once again,” he said. “These two flew over 200 missions on the same Huey in Vietnam. I have always been proud of my father and his service to our country.”
Sadly, Hollingsworth passed away not long after their final meeting, and Cox knew he had to honor his friend by granting him his final wishes. He delivered his best pal’s eulogy with great pride and sadness.
Cox very touchingly closed his eulogy with the words he would always use in pep talks with Hollingsworth during their combat missions, “Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
The 83-year-old veteran also granted his late friend’s wish that he stand guard over his casket, and he was determined to do so without using his walking stick.
“There’s a bond between Marines that’s different from any other branch of service. We’re like brothers,” Cox revealed.
The Vietnam war was a truly devastating conflict. A staggering 58,000 American soldiers died and 300,000 were severely wounded. Watch this incredible air show honoring the sacrifice they made for our nation:
We applaud Cox for his bravery and loyalty.