PULASKI, Va. (WDBJ7) For many years after Larry Freeman returned from Vietnam, he didn't want to talk about his experiences there.
It was only in the last 10 to 15 years that he has begun to come to terms with what happened on July 19, 1966.
But he says he remembers it all, like it was yesterday.
"I remember hearing the bugle, the North Vietnamese bugle, the charge bugle," Freeman said Tuesday morning, "and that's when the lieutenant screamed out everybody fight for your lives."
50 years later, Larry Freeman said he was back in Vietnam, an 18-year-old soldier on what he thought would be a routine mission, fighting for his life alongside his friends.
"It's a day of remembrance of 24 heroes that died in my presence," Freeman told WDBJ7, "and sure as I am sitting here one of those guys saved my life, maybe two or three of 'em. I don't know. I just wish I could have done more to save theirs, but that was not in the books."
One of the 24 was David Holmes.
Freeman and Holmes met during training in Georgia. They were the same age, and were fast friends until the day Holmes died.
"When he looked up at me that day, and he knew that he was dying," Freeman said, "he was crying, he said 'Larry, tell mom and dad I'll be alright.' And I've tried to do that.
Freeman went to see David Holmes' parents before he returned home to Pulaski.
And he has visited Holmes' grave site frequently over the last 50 years, including a trip just a few weeks ago.
To this day, Freeman says he wonders why he survived and his best friend did not.