In 1968, while the rest of the country was ringing in the new year, Master Sgt. William H. Cox and First Sgt. James T. Hollingsworth were stuck in a bunker, wondering if they would survive. The two were in the Marble Mountains of Vietnam, fighting for their lives and their country.

The brothers in arms were watching a personal fireworks show, though the explosions were too close for comfort. Cox said as much when he spoke with the Greenville News.

Cox and Hollingsworth were wondering if they’d make it out of that night alive. If they did, it was no sure thing they’d ever make it home after the fighting.

This line of thinking inspired the two soldiers to make a deal. “If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we would contact each other every year on New Year’s,” Cox told the Greenville News.

Almost 50 years later, Cox and Hollingsworth kept their promises. Cox, of South Carolina, and Hollingsworth, of Georgia, called, met, or otherwise contacted each other every New Year to discuss their lives and how far they’ve come.

Last year, Hollingsworth told Cox he was terminally ill. When he heard the news, Cox traveled 125 miles to see his friend.

When he got there, Hollingsworth asked Cox to make another promise. Cox gave Hollingsworth his word that he’d deliver the eulogy at Hollingsworth’s funeral.

“I said, ‘Boy, that’s a rough mission you’re assigning me to there,’ ” Cox said. Earlier this year, he kept his promise to his long-time friend.

Cox stood guard at Hollingsworth’s casket, and told a room of friends and family of the bond the two of them shared. “There’s a bond between Marines that’s different from any other branch of service. We’re like brothers,” Cox told Greenville News.

When the two were serving, Cox would repeat the same line every time they took to the skies. Hollingsworth was the pilot and Cox was the gunner.

Decades later, at Hollingsworth’s funeral, Cox ended his eulogy with the sentence he’d already said to his friend a hundred times. “Hollie, you keep ‘em flying, and I’ll keep ‘em firing.”

The impact veterans have on the country and community should never be forgotten. Earlier this year, we covered a story about one veteran who died with no one left to mourn him.

On Dec. 12, Navy veteran Jerry Wayne Pino, age 70, died in Long Beach, Mississippi. Not much is known about Pino other than his military history.

No family members or friends claimed his body while it lay at Riemann Family Funeral Homes for several weeks. “No one stepped forward; he just didn’t have any family,” said Cathy Warden, a worker at the funeral home.

Discussing what they would do about the situation, Warden spoke with her colleague, Eva Boomer, and they decided something needed to be done to give the veteran an appropriate send off. “Something had to be done with respect,” Warden said. “We had to give him what he deserved. Nobody should go alone.”

Boomer is a military veteran herself, and she thought a few boys at the Long Beach High School would consider serving as pallbearers. So Warden called her teenage son, Bryce, and asked him to contact a few of his friends.

Within a matter of minutes, there were six young men volunteering to carry a stranger’s casket and stand in respect as he was buried. They all knew it was what they needed to do.

While these funerals were different in many ways, they show the impact veterans have on the lives of millions. Even when we don’t know them personally, we should honor their service and commitment to our country.

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