It was New Year’s Eve, 1968, and Marine Master Sgt. William H. Cox remembers it like it was yesterday. He was hidden away in a bunker in Vietnam, and he was taking fire from the enemy. Along with him was his friend, First Sgt. James L. Hollingsworth. They didn’t think they were gonna make it through that night. And sometime during the night, James leaned over to William and asked him to make a promise for him, and regardless of what happened then, he was going to keep that promise.
James told William that if they survived that dreadful night, they had to find a way to meet up with each other every year on New Year’s. And William agreed to do his best to follow through on that promise.
That horrible, scary night was more than 50 years ago now, and through those years the two have kept in fairly close contact with each other. They went on in life to be married, have families, be happy, and live good, long lives. And they met many years on New Years. But there was one final promise James wanted William to keep. James was now 80 years old, and he knew he didn’t have a whole lot of time left, so he asked William to do the eulogy at his funeral, because William knew him almost better than anyone.
William agreed, but that “mission,” he felt, would be one of the roughest. Soon after, James did pass away. And William attended his funeral in his Marine dress uniform. His eulogy to his longtime friend was more than a normal eulogy. So much more. As William delivered it, he actually stood guard over his best friend’s remains, in honor of their brotherly bond in friendship.
William told everyone attending James’ funeral that his last words to his friend before he died were: ‘Those silver wings that we wear, you’ll be trading yours in heaven for your golden wings and I know when I show up, you’ll be waiting at the gate for me to trade my wings, too.’
And William ended his eulogy by saying: ‘Hollie, you keep ’em flying and I’ll keep ’em firing.”