It was New Year’s Eve 1968, and Master Sgt. William H. Cox and his buddy First Sgt. James J. Hollingsworth were trapped in a damp bunker in a treacherous mountain range deep within Vietnam. They were facing enemy fire and didn’t know if they would make it through the night – let alone, back home to the United States after the war!
After months of fighting together, Cox and Hollingsworth developed a friendship that couldn’t be broken. So when Hollingsworth leaned over to Cox and asked him to make a promise – Cox knew he had to keep it, no matter what…
Hollingsworth quietly inched closer to Cox, as to not alert the enemy, and said:
“If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we would contact each other every year on New Year’s.”
Thankfully, both men made it out of Vietnam alive and kept their promise to each other for more than 50 years. Every few months, they would ring each other up, catch up on any big life changes and wish each other well. As with other Marines, the deep talks were for the lonely hours spent on the battlefield.
Both men ended up having their own families and happy lives on the mainland – but when Hollingsworth passed away at 80 years old, Cox remembered another promise they made back in the swampy nightmare that was the Vietnam War.
In an interview with Fox 19 News, Cox shared their second promise to each other.
“He said, ‘Willie I got one more thing I want you to promise me. He said you know me better than my own family and I want you to do my eulogy.’
That was a rough mission.”
Just as he did with the promise to keep in touch, Cox honored the promise he made to Hollingsworth so many years before.
Cox stood guard over the casket in his Dress Blues and proudly delivered the final eulogy for his dear friend. After the service, Cox revealed the last words he said to Hollingsworth to Fox 19 News.
“I said, ‘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.’
When I finished the eulogy, I closed out with, ‘Hollie, you keep ‘em flying and I’ll keep ‘em firing.’”
Even though more than five decades had passed since they sat in the trenches of Vietnam, Cox told Fox 19 News that he never forgot about their promise.
“People ask me, ‘Haven’t you forgot about the promise?’
I say, ‘No, I haven’t forgot about it. A promise made is a promise kept, especially to another Marine.’”
While nothing can ever ease the loss in Cox’s heart, keeping his word to his beloved friend was the best send-off to the Pearly Gates possible. We thank First Sgt. James T. Hollingsworth, Master Sgt. William H. Cox and the rest of the United States Marine Corps for their service.
Learn more about this emotional promise and how Master Sgt. William H. Cox kept it below.