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Navy veteran pours out memories in poetry series since 72 enlistment
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Vietnam era Navy veteran Edward J. LaBee Jr. displays his latest military poetic efforts among some 100 that he plans to put in a book to be entitled, Diary of a Poet. - photo by GLENN KAHL

LATHROP — Navy veteran Edward J. LaBee has a love of life. It shows it in his years of poetry that he has penned since enlisting in the service right out of high school in Murfreesboro, Tenn. in 1972.

LaBee served aboard the U.S. Aircraft Carrier Enterprise from 1981 until 1989 as a mechanic in the engine room when he doubled as an inspirational writer. His mother Emma Dee Hall was a former U.S. Army nurse.

The Lathrop vet has a collection of over 100 individual poems that date back to 1968 while he was still in high school in the South.

“I can’t stop the words from coming with all the things that have happened in my life,” he said.

LaBee remembers the high school English teacher well that he had for all four years, saying his friends quoted her saying she thought he would go far with his poetry.

His reasoning for publishing a book is based on his 45 years of writing that he doesn’t want to see go in the trash some day. Now working as a mechanic at the nearby Sharpe Army Depot, LaBee said much of his writing was inspired by his Navy tours that took him to Vietnam twice, and the Western Pacific including Singapore, Korea, Hawaii, as well as Rio de Janeiro, France and Italy.

LaBee’s two latest poems follow:

The Flag is lowered
Until it rests halfway down the mast
Their families and friends gather
As their soldiers come home at last.
The soldiers often volunteered
Because they believed
That there’s no price too great
To Keep our country free.
Prayers were made
To keep them safe
And religion didn’t matter
Just their personal faith.
The Flag has survived many battles
And proudly carried through many more
Its colors represent
All the reasons they were fighting for.
The soldiers fight with courage
Their dedication shall never cease
Until freedom is shared by all
And all can live in peace.
We have come far as a country
And as a country it takes us all
Honoring the privilege and freedom
Provided by: The Flag, The Soldier and In God We Trust.

He sat on the park bench
In his torn and faded Army Drab
His duffel bag of memories
Was all he ever had.
No one knew his name
Or where he slept
And no one could imagine
The secrets that he kept.
Until the day they found him
On the park bench where he lay
Proudly displaying his service dress
To join the dead on Veterans’ Day.
The park bench now enshrined
With his story and photographs
And people still pass the spot
But no one ever laughs.
He was an American hero
And this is what he had become
Like so many other vets
Just another homeless bum.
They buried him with honors
And most everybody came
They all sighed in sorrow
When the preacher read his name.