Retired general regales students on Veterans Day

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Retired Air Force Brigadier General James Sehorn riveted students, parents and veterans with an account of his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam during an assembly Friday at Forest Grove High School. Last Friday, during the Veterans Day Assembly at Forest Grove High School, retired Brigadier General James E. Sehorn of the United States Air Force riveted students, parents and about 100 veterans with an account of his experience as a prisoner of war.

“Folks, I will wander around the stage for a couple of reasons,” Sehorn began. “I want to get out in the light once in a while but most importantly, I don’t like being locked up behind anything — and that includes podiums.”

Compassion and community are trademark themes of the high school’s annual attempt to honor veterans and this year was no exception.

The event opened with a welcome by social studies teacher Bob Wismer and proceeded with The Presentation of the Colors, Moment of Silence and Roll Call.

The high school band and choir performed “The Pride of America,” “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem.

Sehorn launched his Air Force career in 1963. On Dec. 14, 1967, while flying over North Vietnam, his plane was attacked and he was forced to eject. He was captured and sent to a Hanoi prison camp, where he spent more than five NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Members of the armed forces conduct a flag ceremony prior to the Veterans Day assembly at Forest Grove High School Friday. The event drew more than 100 veterans to the new FGHS gymnasium, where students, teachers, administrators and parents also gathered.

Being held as a prisoner allowed Sehorn to reflect on the significance of the code of conduct American soldiers are taught, he said.

One rainy evening in particular, he said, “there was a soldier named Ed (who) climbed over the wall to escape the camp. He was caught. For the next couple of days I listened as he was beat because he refused to give the names of the men that knew the things he knew. I stand here today because of the honor and integrity of Ed Atterberry and article four of the code of conduct. He kept the faith with me and others.”

Article four states that if a soldier should become a POW he would keep faith with his fellow prisoners.

Sehorn then told a story of how American soldiers secretly kept an American Flag in a cell at Hanoi. Crafted from blankets, with a needle made from a piece of bamboo, it was sewn on the inside of a prison shirt.

Every day, the prisoners brought out the flag and proudly — but discreetly, due to the possibility of being tortured if the flag was found — pledged their allegiance to it.

Sehorn, a veteran of over 6,200 flight hours, closed his talk with the recollection of what he called “the most memorable flight he ever had.”

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove High history teacher Scott McCahon acknowledges someone in the audience during Veterans Day ceremonies last Friday. He and his fellow soldiers were to be sent home on March 14, 1973. The flight carrying the soldiers took off and every past POW on board started singing “God Bless America.”

“I came home to the greatest country on earth,” Sehorn said. “A country where men and women alike will raise their hand to answer the call. Not just to protect America but to protect the world.”

The ceremony ended with a Retiring of the Colors and a recessional.

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