David Nelson and Lee Roy Herron were high school buddies in Lubbock, Texas. They joined the Marines together after college in 1966. They both became officers. From that point on, though, their paths diverged.
Lee Roy Herron became an infantry officer, went to Vietnam, and was in the thick of things with A Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. He was killed in action on February 22, 1969, while charging an enemy machine gun bunker in the A Shau Valley during Operation Dewey Canyon. His commanding officer, Wesley Fox, later received the Medal of Honor for his courage under fire in that engagement.
David Nelson took a different path in the Marines. “I would not go into the infantry. I would not go to war. I was going to law school, ” he says in David and Lee Roy: A Vietnam Story (Texas Tech University Press, 288 pp., $29.95), which Nelson co-wrote with Randolph B. Schiffer.
After law school at SMU, Nelson put in his three years in the Marines as a JAG officer. As he predicted, he never made it to the war zone. For decades after his friend was killed, Nelson harbored a nagging case of survivor guilt.
After meeting Wesley Fox by chance in 1997, Nelson went on a quest to learn more about Herron’s death. Nelson delved deeply into the voluminous files at the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University in his hometown. He interviewed men who served with his old friend in Vietnam. He even made a trip to Vietnam.
After returning home in 2001, Nelson set up the Lee Roy Herron Endowed Scholarship at Texas Tech. That scholarship funds research trips to Vietnam for students studying the war through the Vietnam Center.
Another result of Nelson’s quest to honor his friend is this book. It is partially written in the first person by Nelson, telling his own story, and in the third person telling Herron’s story. In both sections the authors tell their tales very readably, using a great deal of reconstructed dialogue.
The book’s website is www.davidandleeroy.com