Both were young farm boys when they went half way around the world to fight a war. One was headed for the Army's infantry and the other for the medical corps.
Bill was a first sergeant in the 34th Red Bull division, and fought his way from Salerno to Cassino, in Italy, going without a bed, a hot bath, or a hot meal for three months in the fall of 1943.
Bruce was a medic with the 42nd Rainbow division, bandaging up and transporting his wounded buddies across Austria and Germany, and making life or death judgement calls as to whom he could save and whom he could not.
But today, they were just two old widowers in their nineties, sitting on the porch and talking. It puzzled me as to how, when they are both deaf as a post, they could hear each other easily.
They talked about a lot of things: the weather, gardens, family, the War, the President, and the how young people have a lot to learn. They talked about being old, and the challenges they face in simple things, like walking and negotiating stairs, picking up a glass or cup without a spill, and eating spaghetti gracefully with a spoon.
And they talked about how, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, they believe there's no place like home, and nothing better than sleeping in your own bed. When they came home from the War, both men married and raised families, Bill with a career in the Postal Service and Bruce farming land that has been in his family for generations. They didn't know each other until one's youngest son and the other's youngest daughter married each other, but they soon found out that comrades in war make easy friends.
When their visit came to an end and my father and my father-in-law parted company, it was with another firm handshake and the usual pleasantries of taking leave. But the unspoken words hung thick in the air:
"Life is hard for us old soldiers. Hold on. I hope I see you again."