He Continues to Inspire

I met Joe Labriola after he wrote to me in response to a column I had written about my Marine drill instructor. I visited him at Souza Baranowski. We found a lot of common ground in the Marine-Vietnam connection. And I wrote a column after learning that Joe's Vietnam service had actually been used against him during his trial. I found that disgraceful but not surprising considering the image of the psychotic Vietnam veteran that had claimed such a prominent place in our popular culture in the early 70s.

After that first visit in 2003, I kept going back. I drive the 85 miles from my home in Fall River to Shirley because I have found a friend who shares a vital experience with me and who is funny and smart and caring. Joe's spirit, that's what his friends talk about. We feed on it. He really does do far more for us than we can ever do for him. He is an enduring example of human dignity, of claiming a life of thoughts and ideas and friendship within the most emotionally draining atmosphere imaginable. After more than 35 years in prison, he continues to inspire. He also continues what seems an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and information. He has a better informed take on what's going on in the world than a vast majority of people who live free.

This is an extraordinary man. He has claimed a life within the prison system by going deep inside himself and finding and nurturing the things that sustain him in the darkest hours. I have seven volumes of his journals on my desk. I can pick up any one of them, open to any page and claim a small piece of history from the last 40 or 50 years.

Obviously, I think Joe Labriola should be free. I keep hearing of others who are released from similar sentences. And none of them shed blood for his country.

Bob Kerr
The Providence Journal
75 Fountain St.
Providence, R.I. 02902

October 8, 2008

Note: Bob Kerr's employer, The Providence Journal, has a policy that prevents us from simply reprinting here the content of articles Bob has written for the paper that prominently feature Joe Labriola. We list below the dates and titles of these articles for those who can access the archives of the Providence Journal (www.projo.com).

  • Oct 12, 2003: Thirty years and still the patriot
  • Aug 01, 2004: Joe and I and those guys on the boat
  • Sep 12, 2007: It's prison but we want to get in
  • Jan 14, 2009: Sorting out what matters with Joe
  • Aug 04, 2010: You weren't there? No problem, just say you were
  • Dec 25, 2011: A simple service in a hard place makes the season
  • Sep 23, 2012: Books Through Bars helps convicts spend time wisely
  • Nov 09, 2012: Marine Corps birthday celebration
  • Jun 07, 2013: Two friends take a walk close to home
  • April 25, 2014: The prison system doesn't work and it needs fixing
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