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By Matt Wotus

When Brian Kelly’s dad deployed overseas with the Air Force in May, he bonded with neighbor Dean Cravens over yardwork, an activity he enjoyed doing with his dad, and the two have been inseparable ever since.

Brian became friends with Craven when the family moved to Belleville, Illinois, last July, but the friendship became so much more after his dad was deployed, Brian’s mom, Barbara Kelly, told ABC News.

“He loves John Deere,” she said. “He gave his dad a John Deere shirt before he deployed because he loves lawn care. He told me, ‘Let Brian know I’m wearing my John Deere shirt,’ and I told him, and he just smiled.”

After Brian’s dad left, Cravens said the little boy would come over and ask if he could come out and play.

“Originally he’d ask to do more yardwork, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s do other things too,’ so we play catch, we’ll be shooting the ball, working on my golf swing,” he said. ““I appreciate it a lot. I love kids and being with them.”

Kelly said the family doesn’t have any communication with Brian’s father while he’s overseas, but she thinks he would be grateful for Cravens’ presence in his son’s life.

“Brian knows that no one is going to replace his father,” she said. “The bond between a father and son, it’s just unbreakable. When Dan gets back, Brian’s going to cry and run to him with open arms.”