Houston attorney David Nelson always knew he had a special friend in Lee Roy Herron. When the two met in the seventh grade in Lubbock, they became entwined in a fateful, yet inspiring tale of just how powerful a friendship can become. While juniors at Texas Tech University, Herron convinced Nelson to join the Marine Corps Officer Training program in 1965. Two years later, Nelson transferred to the Marine Corps Judge Advocate program, where he started his law career. Meanwhile, Herron, after attending Vietnamese language training school in California, plunged into the teeth of the Vietnam War thousands of miles from home. In 1969, Herron was killed in action after taking the place of a wounded officer in a heated battle. Nelson, recovering from a three-story fall in a roofing accident at the time, received the tragic news and many questions surrounding the nature of his friend’s death went unanswered for the next 28 years. Nelson spoke with the Texas Bar Journal about his own time in the Corps, the story of Herron that he finally pieced together, and the meaning of Herron’s sacrifice for his country.
Describe how you felt in the late 1960s, as the U.S. was fully embroiled in the Vietnam War. The stress of law school combined with the tension of wartime must have been difficult to bear.