JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Victor Herrera had what he described as a “picture-perfect family" -- a son and daughter, a wife and a fenced-in corner house with a dog.
Eight years ago, he was a chief in the Navy, moving up the chain of command quickly and on a fast-track for a successful Navy career.
But one decision sank Herrera’s future in the Navy and forever changed the lives of another family.
On Nov. 11, 2011, Herrera was involved in a wrong-way head-on fatal crash that took the life of a 73-year-old man.
“He had children, grandchildren. He had family ... and that person was not there for them, and I caused that,” Herrera said.
He said he remembers waking up at the hospital and troopers coming in to tell him what had happened -- and to arrest him.
Herrera was dishonorably discharged from the Navy, lost his driver’s license and went to prison for just over 7½ years for DUI manslaughter.
“I started to use that as fuel to do something good," Herrera said. “I stopped looking at it as a negative in my life. I started to use it as a positive.”
He was released from prison less than six months ago on July 4, 2019, and was reunited with his wife and children.
Now, Herrera works closely with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness. Through speeches and appearances, he hopes his mistakes help others make better decisions.
“Stop! You might want to think about what you’re doing," he tells people. “I wish someone would have done that to me.”
Herrera is currently an HVAC designer at McGowan’s Heating & Air Conditioning as he works to get his life back on track. He said he may never have a license again but he is thankful for the process he has endured and for the chance to remind others that one decision could be the difference between life and death for you or another person.
Herrera shared his story with News4Jax as part of Project Roadblock, a nationwide drunk driving prevention campaign that kicked off Thursday and continues through New Year’s Eve. Project Roadblock urges drivers to think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car either drunk or buzzed.