Photos show lifelong journey of two World War II friends
Four years ago, we brought you the story of two World War II veterans and friends who had been looking for each other for years, and then found each other again on an Honor Flight.
Today, we have a bittersweet update to that story and another pause for now in their friendship.
Dean Solt and Alan Sperry were sent to the Phillippines in December 1944 and mustered on the same day. They discovered both were from Utah, and they were also both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We probably didn’t hardly move over there without being with each other,” said Solt.
He carried a photo of the two young sailors together in his wallet for decades.
“Every time I’d look through my wallet and that picture would be there and I wouldn’t throw it away,” Solt said.
They lost touch after the war, as jobs and families kept them busy. Sperry was traveling around the country working for the LDS Church Education System. Solt lived at the Army Base. Though at one point, Sperry had a job as a milkman, and only later did he realize that he had delivered milk to the Solts’ home without knowing it.
In September 2015, the two men happened to be on the same honor flight in DC. And they were seated next to each other at the Air Force Memorial.
“I said, ‘Dean Solt? You can’t be the same Dean Solt,'” said Sperry at the time.
They became inseparable in the years since then, visiting at least monthly from Salt Lake to Spanish Fork. Solt’s daughter, Nadean Solt Lescoe, often went with her father. The friends had a huge birthday bash together when they turned 90 years old a day apart, in February 2017.
Both men believed their meeting, 70 years after the end of the war, was not just chance.
“The chances of us meeting like we did are practically impossible,” said Solt in 2015.
Lescoe said there was actually someone else sitting in that seat in Washington, D.C. until they were moved at the last minute.
The last time the friends saw each other alive was in May of this year, and Sperry grabbed his friend and gave him a big hug.
On Memorial Day, Sperry passed away. The last time they were together was at his funeral. Solt stood by his friend’s casket, head bowed, hat in his hand.
Lescoe took a picture of that moment.
“This is the prime example of the love veterans have for each other. When I saw my dad standing next to Alan, giving that last goodbye to his very good friend, I snapped the picture,” said Lescoe. “It just breaks my heart when I look at it.”
He had finally found his friend again, only to lose him again. And so, these friends are separated again, for now.
“I just thought that Alan and Dad’s friendship, and those bonds that were formed with that generation, it is important to share those and let people know,” she said. “That kind of friendship is hard to find.”
Lescoe said this story means so much to her as a daughter, but also as a citizen of this country.
“We asked teenage boys not to save just our country, but the world. And they did,” she said.
Solt is still active and healthy for 92-and-a-half years old.
He went to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary of the attack. He recently participated in the Heber Creeper veterans memorial ride in June. And he plans to take part in the Days of 47 Parade with the Honor Flight group. He has things to look forward to and things to still accomplish.
But Lescoe says her dad misses his wife, who passed away in 2004. And he misses his friend Alan Sperry, and other friends who have passed on. The country loses hundreds of World War II veterans every day. However, she still doesn’t want him to leave just yet.
As she reads more about World War II and what the “Greatest Generation” accomplished, she looks at her father with more awe and respect than she did before.
“We don’t have many opportunities left to let them know how we feel,” she said.
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