The two men had met when they faced enemy fire in a bunker on Marble Mountain in Vietnam.
In 2017 retired Marine Master Sgt. William H. Cox stood tall, proud and dressed in his Blues at the head of the coffin of his close friend Retired Marine First Sgt. James ‘Hollie’ Hollingsworth.
In doing this, he fulfilled a vow made to his close friend.
It was New Year’s Eve, but instead of champagne corks and dance music, all that could be heard was the whine of bullets that ricocheted in all directions and explosion of shells.
The two men vowed that if they made it through this horror of a New Year, they would keep in contact every New Year for the rest of their lives.
After completing their military service, the two men returned to the United States and went on with their lives. They ended up living thousands of miles from each other, but this separation did not stop the two men from keeping their promise made in the heat of battle.
The vow made by Cox and Hollingsworth stood the test of time, and every year for the next 50 years, the two old friends made contact with each other every 31st December.
Neither allowed any of the vagaries of life to interfere with the keeping of this tradition.
As Hollingsworth’s life was drawing to a close, Cox, aged 83 at the time, made the long trip from Piedmont in South Carolina to see his friend in Hephzibah in Georgia, and to have the chance to say good-bye.
At that meeting, Hollingsworth had one final request to make to his friend; he asked him to stand guard over his coffin and to deliver a eulogy.
Cox jokingly replied that Hollingsworth had assigned him a rough mission, but after all that they had endured together, he was sure that he could accommodate his friend’s dying wish.
Cox’s son, Bill Cox, shared a photograph on Facebook of the two men deep in conversation. The caption on the picture said that the two great Marines were reunited once again.
Cox went on to say how proud he was of his father and the service that he had done for his country. He also mentioned how great it was listening to stories recounted by one of his father’s oldest friends.
The two old warhorses always ended all their conversations with the same phrase, “Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
In keeping with their tradition, this was the last thing that Cox said to Hollingsworth as the friends parted company for the last time.
Cox kept the promise made to his friend at that last meeting and at Hollingsworth’s funeral held on the 20th October 2017, there is a photograph of the proud octogenarian, dressed in his Marine Blues standing at the head of his friend’s coffin.
At the end of a very emotional eulogy, given by Cox, his last words were the traditional farewell between the two men, “Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
There has also been an outpouring of respect shown to these two amazing men that met in the midst of chaos but faithfully kept their vow to maintain contact, a pledge kept for 50 years.