BURLESON — Lt. Col. Emmett L. “Sam” Herron, 78, passed away Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.
Military graveside: 12:45 pm Tuesday, Jan. 24 at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery. Visitation: 10:30 am to 11:30 am Tuesday at Mayfield Kiser.
Sam was born near Aquilla, Texas, and grew up farming peanuts with his family. He graduated from high school at the age of 16, and eventually tried his hand at farming on his own with a little help from his parents. Unfortunately, his timing to try and start his own farm fell during a period of severe drought in the region. His farming plans having been foiled, and with the United States entering a ‘police action’ in Korea, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1952 at the age of 19.
He served almost 21 years in the Air Force. During basic training he applied for the Aviation Cadets program that took him through pilot and officer training. On August 4, 1954 he received his wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was stationed at various bases and piloted many aircraft during his time with the USAF. Most notably, he was with the 531st Fighter Bomber Squadron at Chambley AB in France in 1956-1957. While there, he piloted his favorite aircraft, the F-86. His mission was “delivery”, if needed, of nuclear bombs to the communist European nations. In October 1967, he was stationed in Udorn RTAFB, Thailand on the RF-4C with the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. His mission was reconnaissance into North Vietnam. He became a member of the Red River Valley Pilots Association (a River Rat) with his first flight across the Red River, otherwise known at the Mekong River. He flew his 100th mission in about 8 months to complete his combat tour and returned to the states on July 4th, 1968. He finished his service at Randolph AFB as a Flight Instructor (ISIP) in San Antonio, Texas. During his career with the USAF he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters, the Combat Readiness Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with service star, Republic of Vietnam Service Medal with three campaign stars, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
After retirement from the military he accepted a contract job as a Human Factors Engineer with Bunker-Ramo at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. His specialty was pilot/cockpit interface. After 8 years in Ohio, he accepted a job with General Dynamics (later Lockheed) in Fort Worth, Texas. His career there took him to Taiwan for a couple of years working on a fighter the Taiwanese were building. Once he returned to the States he retired again, but soon found himself at American Airlines instructing 757/ 767 ground school. He eventually moved to the MD-80 and finished his career at American as an MD-80 simulator instructor. He officially and finally retired on January 1st, 2005. His joke in retirement was that “since retiring I have done nothing and I usually don’t even start that until around 9:00am or later. The problem with that is not knowing when to quit!”
He was not only a patriot and soldier but more importantly, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend.
Survivors: He is survived by his wife, LaNelle; four daughters: Amy Mauzy & spouse Jack, Jennifer Herron, LeAnn O’Leary & spouse Greg, and Julie Flolo; six stepsons: Ron Fuller & spouse Jill, Jim Fuller & spouse Cheryl, Scott Fuller & spouse Jana, Steve Pelham, Michael Pelham, and Robert Pelham; eight grandchildren: Jared Fuller, Chelsea Mauzy, Brittany Billings, Kayleigh Fuller, Jordyn Fuller, Cutter Fuller, Alex Flolo, Sydney Fuller; and two great-grandchildren: MaKenna Shea Fuller and Erik Gage Fuller.