Two Loudoun County men, both World War II veterans, share a very unlikely friendship.
On Monday 90-year-old Eli Linden carried the POW/MIA flag for his retirement home's Veterans Day ceremony. He marched forward proudly, knowing the flag is personal for him.
"[I] was captured in Germany and was a prisoner of war five months," Linden said.
U.S. & World
At 19 years old, Linden was drafted by the U.S. Army. He landed in Normandy, was wounded and imprisoned and ultimately made it back to the U.S.
His wife of 65 years was also in attendance Monday, but so was one of his good friends, Peter Koch.
Two years ago, Eli met Peter at a clubhouse dinner. Both men are husbands and fathers, both are war veterans and both are POWs. But as Eli tells it, both men had very different paths.
"He sat across the way from me and somehow I got the feeling that he was a German," Linden said laughing.
"And then I said, 'We have something in common, because I was a "guest" of the American army,'" Koch added.
Koch signed up for the German Air Force when he was 17 years old. He said no pictures of him survived the war. And for a time, he even suppressed the memories.
"I had to kind of bury that for almost 50 years," Koch said.
But that dinner with Eli helped Peter open up.
"By the end of dinner, which was about an hour and a half, we became friends," Linden said. "We told our stories to each other, and now we're buddies."
These buddies now spend their time welcoming other veterans arrive on honor flights at Dulles Airport, and they share their stories with local students.
Sarcasm and humor help these enemies-turned-friends keep moving forward.