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By Petty Officer 3rd Class Derrick M. Ingle USS Wasp Public Affairs December 2002 PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) - Picture yourself working in a small southern town with no job stability and your highest education is a high-school equivalency diploma. You've never been academically inclined, and your only skills are fixing parts and chopping wood.
[caption id="attachment_3587" align="alignleft" width="308"]fodheatherlt-123002a1 USS Wasp sailors wait patiently to purchase an autographed copy of Petty Officer 1st Class John Heatherly's debut book entitled "Earth Whispers." The book of poetry includes more than 100 poems offering Heatherly's views on life, death, love, and earth. Wasp is undergoing maintenance at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. U.S. Navy photo by Signalman 3rd Class Derrick Ingle[/caption] For some people, such a scenario doesn't exactly illustrate a promising future. Don't utter that to 14-year Navy veteran and author Petty Officer 1st Class John G. Heatherly II, however.
After a year and a half of pouring his thoughts on paper, this Navy aviation structural mechanic hit the market with his debut book entitled "Earth Whispers." The book of poems includes more than 100 pieces offering Heatherly's philosophical glimpse of life, love, death and Earth. It also contains an underlying message on how looking past the odds helped him succeed. "If someone would've told me I was going to be a published poet in high school, I would've never believed it," said Heatherly, a native of Brooklyn, Miss. "I also wouldn't have believed I was going to do 14 years in the Navy. I saw myself chopping pork wood the rest of my life. It just shows you can do whatever you want, if you just get up and do it. I used to just write for myself; now I'm an author." Heatherly's early misperception of himself was partly credited to southern Mississippi's agricultural-driven economy and dropping out of high school. "Writing poetry is second nature, yet in school, I couldn't write anything," Heatherly mentioned. "From eighth grade through high school, I was placed in remedial classes. I was always a slow learner. I have more of a mechanical mind. Because of it, I lost patience and dropped out." When he's not juggling metaphors and rhyme schemes, Heatherly works as one of the ship's leading aircraft mechanics. While underway, he works long hours fixing and rebuilding pistons, shafts and hydraulic lines. While deployed for half of 2002 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Wasp carried various jets and helicopters. Heatherly labored long hours making sure both the ship's aircraft and his book were ready for take off. "During my off time, I researched information on copyrights, Library of Congress and publishing," said the 34-year-old. "Publishing was the most difficult. Most publishers were reluctant to touch poetry. I was constantly rejected. Sales revenues show poetry isn't in high demand. They were only interested in fiction. "Finally, I hooked up with a publisher who let me illustrate and design my own cover. They're promoting it on the Internet. The next step is to get it on shelves." According to loved ones, Heatherly has always been the mountain man, Paul Bunyan type. Family members were stunned when they discovered the country boy from Mississippi's back woods had more to offer than just slaying trees. "I couldn't believe what I was reading," exclaimed Heatherly's father, John Heatherly. "I don't know where he gets his talent from. His mother and I found out about his poetry at his grandfather's funeral two years ago. They were extremely close, and so he wanted to write the eulogy. It was beautiful. From then on, we encouraged him to keep writing." Aside from his grandfather, Heatherly credits his inspiration to his yearning for freedom. He feels so shackled that he already has two more projects in the making. "The follow up to 'Earth Whispers' is due out next summer," said Heatherly. "I have 30 poems completed so far. Also, I'm writing a novel on mountain men. I'm writing more now because I desire to be free. Writing frees me from the constraints and obligations of the world."