I’d like to tell a tale of friendship that unfurled in the most unlikely of places.

The story opens at Herrin hospital a few years back, where I first met a nighttime nurse by the name of Harry Riddle.

As I was laying in my hospital bed recovering from a heart attack, I noticed a photograph of a charming squirrel feeder. Its rustic charm caught my eye. So, I asked Harry where he got it.

He replied, "I made it."

Yes, my friends, Harry’s not only a dedicated nurse, but he’s also a gifted woodworker. A true craftsman.

My curiosity piqued, I asked Harry if he also crafted those beautiful wooden American flags often seen adorning patriotic homes. To my delight, he admitted to not only making them but also using his skills to pay for part of his college education.

Harry eagerly showed me pictures of these magnificent, handcrafted flags. The precision, the dedication—it was truly something to behold.

Now the story takes a truly heartwarming turn. When I expressed my admiration for his work, Harry kindheartedly offered to make one for me, free of charge.

I was touched by his generosity. I hesitated at first, not wanting to impose. But Harry insisted and, before I knew it, one of his beautiful flags was hanging on my wall.

But there’s more to this story. During our initial conversation, I mentioned my cherished Black Horse patch and wondered aloud if he could also incorporate that distinctive emblem into a flag.

Without a moment's hesitation, Harry assured me that he could.

Then, I had a grand idea. Not one flag... but EIGHT flags. For the eight soldiers with whom I had shared the Black Horse legacy, including my dear friend Wayne Corzine from the 173rd Airborne. Each of us united by our service in Vietnam.

It wasn’t too long before Harry the master craftsman fulfilled my request and showed up with eight handcrafted flags. He, once again, said payment wasn't necessary. But knowing his hard work deserved recognition, I insisted on paying.

These flags were destined for the homes of dear friends. In return, I simply asked each friend for a photo of the flag hanging in their home.

Ah, but here's the twist. In my eagerness, I overlooked one of my comrades. So, without hesitation, I gave away my own flag to a fellow trooper.

But fret not, for Harry, the skilled woodworker and generous soul, crafted yet another flag for me to keep for myself.

Now, allow me to introduce new character to our story: Larry Waters.

I first met Larry at our Vietnam & Cambodia Veterans Reunion, and we soon discovered our connection ran deep.

Larry was born February 2nd, 1948, and I was born four days later that same year.

Larry was married to his beloved Sandy for 55 years, mirroring the enduring love my wife Patricia and I share. He also graduated from school in 1966, the same year as me. It was uncanny. We couldn't explain it, but from that moment on, we knew we had found a true friend in each other.

Larry and I had made a solemn pact to call or see each other every year.

I was looking forward to seeing my friend Larry at this year’s reunion, which was held in September in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But here's where the story takes a poignant turn. This plot twist comes in the form of a phone call a few months back.

Larry's voice, laden with emotions, revealed the news. He wouldn't be at the reunion. I sensed there was more to the story... so I asked if everything was alright.

That’s when he told me... his cancer had returned. There was nothing the doctors could do.

They had given him two weeks to live.

But even then, in his darkest moment, Larry’s greatest wish was to live long enough to celebrate his granddaughter's birthday without casting a shadow on her special day.

A lot of folks were praying for Larry, including my Sunday School Class. Our fervent hope was that he would see his final wish come true.

Well, this story has a somewhat happy ending. Larry’s prayers were answered. His granddaughter’s birthday was on Saturday. The following day, Sunday, Larry went home to be with the Lord.

Veterans Day is November 11th. I hope you’ll take some time to recognize and remember those who served our great country.

It will mean a lot if you’d also say a word of thanks for my friend, Larry.

A magnificent soldier... and an even better friend.

Be well. Stay well. Thanks for readin’...

Francis Pas