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Former medic honors late Vietnam veteran with sculpture

8:53 PM, Jan 31, 2014   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- A West Michigan man is honoring a fallen serviceman he sent back into battle in Vietnam.

Dr. Edward Byrd was a medic during the war. He helped nurse Dennis Labazoo back to health after he was injured during a battle. The two developed a friendship, and even though he didn't want to, he cleared him to return to service.

"Anyone in that situation going out on patrol, facing sudden death has a variety of courage; it's hard for me to imagine. That just sets them apart as a special kind of human being in my mind," says Byrd.

Joyce Washburn fell in love with Dennis Labazoo while they were students at Creston High School. "He captured my heart more than I captured his," says Washburn. "No one could ever take his place."

Byrd and Washburn had a common experience, They both held onto the memories of Dennis, and struggled to let go. In an effort to find peace, Dr. Byrd had an idea.

"I had this idea that people die twice, their bodies die, then their memories." He created a piece of artwork in his honor. "I would want him to know there are a whole lot of people who have not forgotten him, we're going to try to keep his memory alive, a lot of people loved him," Byrd said crying. "I'm sorry, and that we miss him."

Byrd and Washburn eventually met through a posting on the internet. Now both have the peace they've been seeking all of these years. "I feel like for the first time, I can accept it, I can feel it, I can feel all those things I shoved down," Washburn says. And after more than 40 years, their healing can begin.

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