Knox the Fox shares Memorial Day story

Susan EspirituOur Town Adventure Seekers

Knox the Fox rested from traveling this week in order to share the story of Martha Cothren, a teacher whose students will always understand the meaning of Memorial Day.

Imagine walking into your first day of class, and there are no desks in the room.

As you are standing in the space where you expected a desk, your teacher asks you a question, “How can you earn a desk?”

This happened in 2005 at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Martha Cothren is the teacher and it is a military history class.

At each period during the day, students entered and left the class being asked the same question, but no student had the answer that earned a desk.

Some answered “good grades” of course, and Cothren encouraged good grades, but that didn’t earn them a desk.

Some were sure the desk was dependent on good behavior, but they left the class without a desk.

By the afternoon, parents were incensed and all the television stations were at the school to understand how a teacher could be allowed to not permit students to have desks.

When the final class ended and no one had guessed correctly, Cothren gathered all her students to give them the answer.

She opened the classroom door. A host of veterans walked in with the desks, set them in rows and stood against the wall.

Teacher Cothren addressed the students:

We don’t pay for our desks; our military pay for them with service and sacrifice.

“You don’t have to earn those desks. These guys already did. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.

“No one charged you for your desk. But it wasn’t really free. These guys bought it for you. And I hope you never forget it.”

Cothren had received permission from the principal and the school superintendent to remove the desks. Gov. Mike Huckabee used this lesson in his presidential campaign speeches in 2007.

Cothren has confirmed what happened that day to multiple sources including Barbara Mikkelson of

As the daughter of a World War II POW, Cothren regularly has veterans visit her classroom to help teach her military history course, with a recurring theme of an appreciation for members of the armed forces. Through the years, Cothren’s students also have sent many care packages to U.S. service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and have sent thousands of letters to military personnel serving overseas.

In 2006, the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their Teacher of the Year.

We don’t pay for our freedoms; our military pay for us with service and sacrifice. We honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day.

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