Freedom Fighters: Jerrell Herron

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - The Vietnam War lasted sixteen years, from 1959 to 1975. But Jerrell Herron has found that friendships made in war can last a lifetime.

Jerrell Herron was 20 and had completed only part of his college education when he was drafted into the army. Because of a job he had with an engineering firm, Herron was trained in water purification, a necessity for soldiers on the move. 

"I thought 'well, that'll be an easy job, especially over there,' but I didn't end up staying on a real big base," he said.

Instead, he was sent to fire support bases. Purifying water was taken out of rivers became the major part of his work, with his first stop at Tin Can in the Highlands.

"There, where I was at Tin Can, the biggest danger was rockets and mortars. WE got hit quite often. In fact, there for awhile it was almost daily."

Attacks by the VietCong were so constant, Herron says he almost got used to them.

"You try not to think about dying, you just live daily and hope everything turns out ok and fortunately for me, it did," he said.

More than 58,000 American soldiers who fought in Vietnam didn't come home, while over a million Vietnamese citizens became a victim of the war, as well.

Herron got to know several Vietnamese families during his time in Vietnam. His friend named How even had his family set up a special Christmas dinner for Herron, which became one of his favorite memories when he returned home in October of 1970.

Forty-two years after Herron left Vietnam, he received a phone call from How's daughter, and months of contact with How convinced Herron that he just had to return to Vietnam.

"She found me through the internet in Tyler, Texas," he said of How's daughter.

"I spent 17 days over there," he said.

Jerrell Herron says he's still bitter because we could have won the Vietnam war and weren't allowed to, but even though he suffers from illness caused by Agent Orange, he's glad he served, and especially glad for the friendship of How and his family. 

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