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Minnesota Boy, 4, Reunited With WWII Veteran in Touching Birthday Tribute

Erling Kindem got a big surprise for his 90th birthday — a visit from his 4-year-old former neighbor Emmett Rychner, who moved away last year.

World War II veteran Erling Kindem found a best bud in his 4-year-old next-door neighbor, Emmett Rychner. But after the unlikely pair enjoyed countless hours of lawn mower races, croquet matches and gardening, Emmett's parents made the difficult decision last year to move from their suburban home south of Minneapolis to a new house in the country.

The distance became even harder to bear as Kindem planned to move with his ailing wife to a retirement community about 30 miles away. "It was good while it lasted," Kindem told NBC affiliate KARE last September. His voice cracked as he reasoned that he would someday see his friend again: "It isn't over."

On Sunday, they were reunited. Kindem celebrated his 90th birthday with Emmett and his family by his side, the station reported. The young boy had a special present for Kindem: A package containing a set of matching dog tags, each engraved with "Emmett & Erling" and "Friends Forever."

The friends slipped the tags around their necks, and their bond was made official: Neither age nor distance could separate them. Kindem then placed his hands on Emmett's face. "You come back again," he said to the boy.

Emmett didn't skip a beat: "I will eventually," he said.

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— Erik Ortiz