HERRERA, BEN LOPEZ
Rank / Branch:
PFC E-3, U.S. ARMY
9th INFANTRY DIVISIO
Date of Birth:
HOSTILE, SMALL ARMS
Awards & Decorations:
See Alphabetical list
list by County
BEN LOPEZ HERRERA, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS, U.S. ARMY, ODESSA, ECTOR COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Combat Infantryman's Badge, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
The Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans' Memorial comes at a time when the places and events of the Vietnam War have become dim in the memory and conscience of the country. But those memories still burn brightly in the minds of those who fought in Vietnam, and the families of those who did not return.
"It doesn't seem that long," says Ruben Herrera, of Odessa. "I was a PFC (Private First Class) in the Marine Corps. It was '69 and '70, the last part of '69 and the early part of '70. I was with Bravo-1-9, First Battalion, Ninth Marines, the ‘Walking Dead'."
Herrera's unit that was based in Okinawa, and was later assigned to serve aboard the USS New Orleans, off the coast of Vietnam. Their nickname had not been given lightly, and it served as a grim reminder of what might lay ahead for all those who served.
"The unit that we replaced had gotten wiped out in the A Shau Valley," explained Herrera. "So what happened is, they nicknamed us the "Walking Dead" because they got wiped out, and we replaced them."
The Memorial is a tribute to all Vietnam-era veterans. Not just those who served under fire in Vietnam, but all men and women who answered the call to duty during that time.
Built of stone and brick, decorated with flags and landscaping, the memorial also serves as a lasting tribute to the men and women who gave what the United States President Abraham Lincoln called ‘their last full measure of devotion'.
Carved into the stone are the names of 225 West Texas men who were killed, or are listing as missing in action in Vietnam. One of those names is PFC Benjamin Herrera, United States Army, and older brother to Ruben.
Benjamin Lopez Herrea was born in Rotan, Fisher County, Texas. He was the third child born to Manual and Natividad Herrera. His father, Manual had been born in Rotan as well. His father was a veteran of the U.S. Army having served as an infantryman with the 41st Infantry and was 3 1/2 years overseas in that theatre of operation. Mr. Herrera lost a brother in combat in World War II.
Ben came from a large, very loving family. He was one of 14 children. He attended schools in Rotan and Aspermont. The family moved to Odessa in 1961 and Ben did not return to school. He went to work. He married Maria Saldana of Odessa in 1966.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1968 and completed his basic training and AIT at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He started his Vietnam tour on June 10, 1968. According to his brother, Ruben, "He was infantry. He was with Company E, 60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, in Vietnam. He had volunteered to walk point on a patrol and was shot by a sniper on August 10, 1968, he had been in country 2 months."
With a Vietnamese Child-1968
Military service, and the dangers it might entail, was nothing new to the Herrera brothers as well as to their father. The oldest brother, Manual, Jr served in the Army in Germany before the hostilities heated up in Vietnam. Beside Reuben, brothers, Elyeo and Johnny also served in the Marine Corp. Ruben's son is a United States Marine who served during the Persian Gulf War and several other of Ben's nephews have served in the Iraq theatre of operation.
Ben's Squad in Vietnam, Ben is far left
But while proud of their military service, the fondest memories held by the family are those of the friendship and fellowship they shared at home, in the time of piece. The memories they have of Ben are no different.
Ben on Patrol in Vietnam
"He was a hell of a baseball player! He gave you the shirt off his back. A hard worker and devoted husband," recalled Herrera. "The last thing I remember about him is, right before he went, we got in the backyard and were wrestling. I still have a picture of it, where we were in ‘bear hug', trying to knock each other down."
Ben was laid to rest in at Sunset Memorial Garden's Cemetery in Odessa, a site his family continues to visit, to reflect and remember. Herrera believes the Vietnam Memorial will serve a similar purpose, and therefore, definitely plans to visit the site, often.
Sunset Memorial Garden's Cemetery, Odessa, Texas
"You bet, you bet. For the simple fact that it's there, and that's probably as close as I'll get to him right now."
Ben is survived by his parents, his older brother, Manual Jr. of Carlsbad, New Mexico; his sister, Ann Rodriguez of Odessa; brother, Rueben of Odessa; brother, Jimmy of Mobile, Alabama; brother, Elyeo of Odessa; sisters, Helen Herrera and Mary Molinar of Odessa, sister; Ellen Hensil of Aspermont; sister, Ginger Martinez of Alvin; sister, Connie Barraga of Odessa; and brothers; George, Johnny and Ricky of Odessa.