Leesville, LA (KALB) Over the weeA portion of highway 171 that stretches from the traffic circle in Vernon Parish to the Texas highway intersection in Leesville was dedicated to the cities first casualty of the Vietnam war...Marine Private First Class Paul Nicholas Jr.
It's been 49 years since Marine Private First Class Paul Nicholas Jr. was killed. Glen Norris was Paul's battle buddy. The Northwestern State University students enlisted in the Marines together around 1966.
"His bunk was right over mine in boot camp," said Norris. "I would crawl up there and we would make all of these plans for when we got out of the Marine Corps, how we were going to start a bar out in San Francisco and how we were going to do this and how we were going to do that."
Separated by different ship dates, Norris deployed first.
"The last words we said to each other, before I hung up (the phone) was 'I love you'."
The two had plans to meet up in Vietnam. But that day never came
"I had already been approved to go and see him. Then I got the letter. It was a gut-wrenching experience that still to this day stays with me."
At Saturdays highway dedication ceremony, friends shared memories of Paul, forever frozen in time as a smiling 21-year- old. A smile that melted the heart of Jo Anne Willis, Paul's High School sweetheart
"Fell in love from the time I saw him in the 7th grade," said Willis. "That was it. Love at first sight."
Paul was a decorated running back for the Leesville Wampus Cats, winning Offensive MVP, all-district and all-southwest honors his Senior year. And that love of the game is something Paul's youngest brother Charles Nicholas will always remember.
"One year we got football uniforms for Christmas," said Nicholas. "And we played football me and him in the mud and the rain. We'd get out there and play just me and him."
Paul lives on in the memories of his loved ones. The highway dedication, another way to remember him.
"I still remember his cereal number, 2213140 and mine was 2213141," said Norris.
"I miss him," said Willis. "I miss him a lot but one day we'll get to see him again and that big bright smile."
State Representative James K. Armes passed a bill to rename a portion of highway 171 in Leesville after Paul Nicholas Jr. The bill became law in May 2016.