Freedom Fighters: David Holland - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: David Holland

(KLTV) -

David Holland had only been married three weeks when he was shipped to Vietnam in September of 1968. He was determined to return home to his bride, but found out staying alive in the Vietnam War was easier said than done.

Holland joined the Army in 1968, and before the year was out, was in Vietnam.

"I went over there with a mindset that I was going to be a survivor," Holland recalled. "I was not going to be a victim. I was going to do whatever I had to do to be a survivor."

Hollans found out soon after arriving in Vietnam that being a survivor wouldn't be all that easy.

"Man, we hadn't been out in the bush but a few days, and got into an ambush situation. That's just one of the deals where you just do what you've been taught to do and keep your head down and keep firing as best as you can," Holland said.

Holland was to have many jobs during his time in Vietnam, but his first assignment as a radio telephone operator and machine gunner was among the most dangerous.

"That's when it was brought to my attention that well, yeah, that's usually the first two people they try to take out is the radio telephone operator and the machine gunner," said Holland.

Holland's most unique job was as a "Tunnel Rat." The Vietcong were famous for their underground compounds of tunnels.

As one of the smaller men in the company, Holland had to go down and check the things out, so with a rope tied to his leg and carrying only a pistol and flashlight, he was lowered into the tunnels.

His biggest find was not a Vietcong, but something much more sinister.

"What it was, was an unexploded 500 pound bomb from a B-52 bomber," he recalled.

The first time Holland was wounded was when he was a gunner in an armored personnel carrier that ran over a land mine. 

"I remember the noise and the black and then the orange and yellow flash, and then when I woke up, apparently I hadn't been out very long, I was still up in the turret," he said.

Holland's gun had hit his chin, opening it up and knocking him out. After the medics had sewn him up, Holland was sent back into battle only to be wounded for a second time.

"The second time our company had been brought back to base camp for a stand down, and we were pulling guard duty, and it was about three o'clock in the morning, and we got under a rocket and mortar attack," Holland said. "They were 88 millimeter rockets and one of them hit right in front of our bunker and blew the front of our bunker off, and how none of us weren't killed from that, that's just again the hand of God being on us."

Holland began crawling to a nearby bunker with rockets hitting all around him. He didn't know he had been wounded until others pointed it out.

"The guys in the other bunkers said- Hey Holland, you've been hit- and I've been hit 11 times with pieces of shrapnel," he said. "They got eight of the pieces out. I've still got three pieces in me."

Even after painful injuries, Holland's most painful time in Vietnam was when he found his best friend, James Lucero, had been killed. Lucero's parents wanted Holland to escort their son's body back to the states.

After all he had experienced, Holland's return to the U.S. was also painful.

"Like a lot of other people, I was called baby murderer, murderer and at times I was spit upon," Holland said.

And yet, when asked how he felt about serving his country, David Holland says he's honored to have served:

"I would much rather be here to fight evil in another country than to have us fighting here in our own borders."

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