There's a wonderful e-mail going around this time of year. It's like a lot of other e-mails -- it tells a warm and fuzzy story. But this one is different. It's actually true.
It was the first day of school at Robinson High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 2005. Robinson is a smaller public school with just over 500 kids. And virtually every one of those kids thought Martha Cothren, teacher of AP American History, AP Government, military history and coach of the girls basketball team, was crazy.
They thought she was crazy because here it was, the first day, and her classroom was empty. Not empty of kids -- the kids were there. Completely empty of desks and chairs. All the kids were standing around. For the entire day.
Each class period, the kids asked Cothren where their desks were.
"You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn them. So how do you earn them?" she asked.
"Good grades," suggested one kid.
"Those are important, but those won't earn you your desk," Cothren replied.
"Good behavior?" suggested another.
"You will behave," Cothren said, "but it's not that."
Some of the kids even started offering Cothren bribes. No dice. A buzz ran through the school as more and more kids reported the absence of desks and chairs in their class with Cothren. "What's going on with Cothren?" they wondered.
Five minutes before the bell rang to end that first day of school, they found out.
"All day long," she told her class, "everybody has wondered how you earned your desks." Then Martha Cothren opened the door to the classroom.
And in walked a group of men and women of the United States military. Each one of them carried a desk. They lined them up in rows and then stood at attention around the room.
"You didn't earn your desks," Cothren stated. "They earned it for you."
Cothren's story has made the rounds for the past few years, boosted every Veterans Day. It got an especially large bump when Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee mentioned the story in his stump speeches, including his speech at the Republican National Convention.
On Tuesday, I had a chance to talk with Martha Cothren. Her military ties run deep.
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