See that young girl in the band? Yes, the one with the trobone on her lap. I know what is going through her mind as she listens to this man’s speech. The man is Retired Brigadeir General James E. Sehorn and he is addressing those gathered to honor and be honored this Veteran’s Day. Sehorn was a POW in Hanoi, Vietnam for five years. That girl knows he will talk about how once captured by the enemy that “the battle of fire power would had evolved into a battle of will power.” She knows his home of record was Forest Grove, Oregon. This connection to her early childhood makes her listen carefully to any references of home. She will not be surprised when he speaks openly about his faith having been strengthened by the experience.
Why does a teenager know these kinds of details about a guest speaker in her school? There are no references to Retired Brigadeir General James E. Sehorn in her history book. Nor did her teacher prepare a PowerPoint lecture on the man. What her teacher did do was announce that this distinguished gentleman would be speaking at their school’s annual Veteran’s Day celebration. He would explain how in the planning process, the Ret. Brig. General made it clear that he wanted more time to speak with the students. School administration could not extend the already nearly 2 hour event, so a compromise was struck. A select group of 8th graders would be invited to attend a post event face-to-face with the guest speaker. Her teacher went on to explain that in order to be eligible for consideration, students simply had to write down 3-5 questions for the general.
And so it came that my daughter googled a general. Not any ordinary general but Retired Brigadeir General James E. Sehorn. So often we go to Google for the answers, and she went in search of questions. Funny how that works. What more about this man did she want to know beyond what she could learn from a database. As I prepared dinner, she would call out bits and pieces that she collected in her search. She wondered outloud. And at dinner, she shared what she knew and asked us what questions we would ask. By the end of the evening she had developed a pretty cool list of questions. And this list was not Googleable. No, not in the least. We were hopeful she would get selected to go to the small group talk because we were anxious to learn the answers too.
And that is where she is now. Her dad, a Gulf War veteran, and I left after the ceremony and enjoyed a simple lunch thanks to Applebees. She and several of her classmates were headed to their much-deserved talk. It turns out her teacher is a brilliant man. Any student who turned in a list of questions to him was automatically put on the guest list. Today is a good day. Tonight’s dinner discussion will be extraordinary. Happy Veteran’s Day.