For Larry Large, serving in the military is a family tradition. It is not a duty or responsibility. It is a privilege. His grandfather, father, brother, and son all served.
Larry’s dream was to be an astronaut. He loves to fly, but in the early 1960s, you had to be a perfect human specimen, and he had had too many broken bones. So, in 1964, the 17 year-old son of a cattle rancher graduated from high school, and enlisted in the Army. He says, “You know the Army will take ya sick, lame, or lazy.”
He ended up as a door gunner and a platoon sergeant, but went in as a mechanic station in Hawaii. The Vietnam conflict began, and the United States began involvement as “advisors.” He began to take gunner training, and out of 25,000 who trained, they took ten. Larry was number one. He says, “I am very, very accurate with a gun.” His brother was going to dental school at Fort Sam Houston, and they were shipping young men out as fast as they came in. He had a choice to make. He says his brother isn’t the kind of guy that could go to war, and come out okay on the other side. So, he volunteered to go to be part of a shotgun platoon in 1965.
He had every intention of making the military a career, but the last time he was shot he “it was hard to get back in that helicopter.”
Larry was shot down nine times. Human beings trying to kill him didn’t scare him, but being shot down, crawling through the jungle with snakes, that was terrifying.
Large’s return to the United States was less than welcoming. Listen to the entire conversation with fellow soldier, Leonard Hitz, and hear his harrowing story of rescuing a Chinook and its crew, as well as the heart-breaking story of a young man returning from war who just wanted to be treated like a normal citizen.
Larry earned numerous medals and awards, including two purple hearts, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.