A Warship With Pittsburgh Roots Sets Sail

170121-N-CF105-231 NORFOLK (Jan. 21, 2017) Families wave goodbye as the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) departs Naval Station Norfolk. The Arleigh-Burke class destroyer is part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2. Itl deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman P. J. Morrissey/Released)
Father John F. Laboon

The USS Laboon (DDG58), a guided missile destroyer for the U.S. Navy, was recently deployed for service after a five month intensive training and testing at the Norfolk Naval Station. Now, the fact that a battleship was just deployed may not tickle your fancy, the story behind the name just might. (By the way, battleships are totally boss, you should get one.)

Father John Francis Laboon, the literal manifestation of Father Dowling and Jon J. Rambo, was born on April 11, 1921, in Pittsburgh, PA, served as Submariner in WWII, and also as a Chaplain in the Vietnam War. After a brief stint Carnegie Institute of Technology, Laboon joined the Naval Academy, where he was a scholar student and star athlete, playing football and lacrosse, of which he became nationally recognized for his achievements.

Fast forward to 1943, Laboon was training as a Submarine Officer and was eventually assigned to the USS Peto, where he took on roles as a Comm. Officer, Gunnery and Torpedo Officer, and finally an Executive Officer. Laboon was awarded the Silver Star after rescuing a downed pilot in mine infested waters.

After the war ended, Laboon took to a higher calling and became a priest after being ordained in 1957. Laboon would continue his life’s work helping, even in war, after he was recommissioned to active duty as a Chaplain. For 22 years, Laboon served across the globe, and in 1969 was awarded the Legion of Merit (Combat V) as a battlefield chaplain.

After retiring in 1980, Laboon continued his work with the church, and served there until his dying day, August 1, 1988. The USS Laboon was named in his honor in 1993. Over the past years, the Laboon has seen loads of action. It served in Iraq, as the first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to engage in active combat, in 2012 it was sent to Lybia for diplomatic missions attack, and in June, 2015, it visited the Black Sea for a NATO presence mission.

The recent deployment of the DDG-58 will assist global operations consisting of counter-piracy, ground support, disaster relief, and humanitarian efforts.

And with that, Father John is immortalized, and how fitting for it to be a warship that can not only fight the good fight, but will also lend a helping hand to those in need. Laboon was a true hero, not only on the battlefield, but in a world that always needed a helping hand.