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home : news : news June 25, 2016

6/13/2013 2:35:00 PM
Story of father he never met brings life to Vietnam War Memorial names
Troy Harworth and Janelle Hermann, displaying gift to Chisago Lakes High School.
Troy Harworth and Janelle Hermann, displaying gift to Chisago Lakes High School.

When Father’s Day rolls around this Sunday we can think of one group of students who, just maybe, will view their dads through a slightly brighter lens thanks to the story of someone who never met his. Chisago Lakes High School instructor Bridget Budig recently told the Press about what happened after her colleague, English Instructor Janelle Hermann; ran a letter-to-the-editor in the Press in May, recruiting volunteers who had personal experiences relevant to the Vietnam Wall, to contact her and share the story with her students.

Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” was being read by Hermann’s American Literature students. She wanted to bring the novel to life. Troy Harworth called to say he’d like to come. So-- on May 31 the very same day that an Air Force senior master sergeant was shot down over Vietnam in 1966-- a son of his was at a high school talking about the sergeant and his impact on a son’s life. Troy Harworth never met his dad. All he understood growing up was that his father was Missing In Action. Troy had been born two months after Elroy Edwin Harworth was reported shot down in his C-130. Troy explained he and his older brother Scott traveled to Hawaii to claim their father’s remains when they were finally identified in 1986. The Sr. Master Sergeant now has a gravesite in Fergus Falls, and the name of Elroy Edwin Harworth is engraved into the Vietnam Wall.

The students listened as their teacher Mrs. Hermann read aloud Elroy Harworth’s letter to his wife, containing the last thoughts he’d carried. Troy told the students that he’d never publicly shared this letter before. Budig said the talk brought tears to students’ eyes. Junior Kelsey Palmer wrote thanking Harworth for coming, and said, “It (your visit) showed that those people on the wall aren’t just names but they’re real people with real families and real friends.” Toni Seiberlich wrote; “By having you come in you really gave meaning to your dad’s name... I will always remember your visit.” Courtney Schlegel wrote in her thank you note, ”I really think you made a difference in our school.”

To honor the mission that took his life-- Sr. Master Sergeant Harworth was awarded the Distinguished Silver Cross posthumously. His son presented the medal to Mrs. Hermann and Chisago Lakes High School. And a C-130 was flying over the high school.

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