Decorated Sailor Looks Back On Four Years At War - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/6/06-White Oak

Decorated Sailor Looks Back On Four Years At War

A decorated sailor from White Oak is back with his family after four years serving our nation.

Petty Officer Second Class Lee LaFleur joined the Navy right after 9/11. Still a teenager, he saved a fellow recruit's life, and even spotted several possible terrorists scouting out his ship.

"A little country boy from White Oak had never been out of the state very much," LaFleur says of himself before enlisting.

In four years, his duty has taken him around the world. He was just 17 when he enlisted.

"One day, I was sitting in school and said 'Why not? Why not join the Navy?"

That was before 9/11.  He saw his world change, but not his obligation.

"I was ready to go that day. Of course, they didn't let me," he says.

In March of 2002, he was finally off to basic training, and even in boot camp, he would earn his first Navy Achievement Medal.  He saved a fellow recruit who was choking.

"I ran over there and started punching him in the stomach.  I was just trying to get it out of him, and I started giving him the proper Heimlich and it dislodged," he says.

Over the next several years, Lee was in the Persian Gulf, landing helicopters and moving missiles.  It was a long way from his life growing up.

"I was a 'grown man' at 17, and I joined the Navy and they taught me otherwise."

Lee's mother is happy to have him home.

"There were a lot of sleepless nights, but he was really good when he could about e-mailing me and that helped a whole lot," says mother Lisa Pullen.

Lee was able to return to the U.S., and was assigned to the destroyer USS Gonzalez.

One night he saw something very wrong.

"I noticed three guys with huge cameras taking pictures of the ship out in the water."

His report might have stopped a disaster.

"They apprehended the gentlemen and they were a suspected terror cell from the city,"

For that, he earned his second Navy Achievement Medal. Lee decided to return home for good this week, hoping he has lived up to a standard.

"I really wish my dad were here to see this," says Lee's mother.

Lee's granddad Ben Milam was a Navy vet of World War II.  Lee hopes to live the rest of his life as a model of this man.

"I hope to at least match the expectations he had for my life," Lee says. 

Lee has applied to college and hoped to become a funeral director. He says he wants to spend his life helping grieving families through painful times.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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