Veteran keeps final promise to US Marine he made pact with under fire in a Vietnam bunker in 1968
A veteran kept his final promise to a fellow US Marine, with whom he made an enduring pact while under fire in a bunker in Vietnam 49 years ago. Master Sgt. William H. Cox and First Sgt. James T. Hollingsworth were under heavy mortar and rocket fire in the Marble Mountains on New Year’s Eve 1969 when they came to an agreement. Unsure if they’d survive the onslaught, the friends promised to make contact on that day for the rest of their days if they made it out. Mr Cox said: “Charlie [the US soliders' nickname for the North Vietnam forces] was really putting on a fireworks show for us. “If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we [said we] would contact each other every year on New Year’s.” For the last five decades the pair have maintained their promise and met every New Year’s to catch up and reminisce. However this year, when Mr Cox travelled from his home in Piedmont, South Carolina, to his friend’s in Hephzibah, Georgia, Mr Hollingsworth had one last request. After learning he was terminally ill, Mr Hollingsworth, 80, asked his old comrade to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. “I said, ‘Boy, that’s a rough mission you’re assigning me to there,’” Mr Cox told the Greenvilleonline.com. When Mr Hollingsworth, whose nickname was ‘Hollie’, passed away aged 80, Mr Cox honoured his friend’s request by delivering his eulogy. The 83-year-old also insisted on standing guard over Mr Hollingsworth’s casket without the aid of the walking stick he usually relies on. Mr Cox added: “There’s a bond between Marines that’s different from any other branch of service. We’re like brothers.” The pair first met as they travelled to Vietnam to serve in the VMO-2 Marine helicopter squadron, in which Mr Hollingsworth was a mechanic and door gunner and Mr Cox an ordnance chief and a door gunner. Mr Cox ended his eulogy with the phrase he used to say to Mr Hollingsworth at the end of their combat missions: “Hollie, you keep ‘em flying, and I’ll keep ‘em firing.” More than 58,000 US troops died and 300,000 were wounded in the conflict, which also claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese. America became involved in war to aid its ally, the Republic of South Vietnam, as it faced collapse under attack from the Communist North Vietnamese forces and Viet Cong guerrillas in 1954. The US withdrew its troops from the country in 1973 and the war ended on April 30, 1975 when the North Vietnamese Army overran the presidential palace in Saigon.