Hundreds of high schoolers sat captivated for nearly an hour Friday at Golden Valley High School as Medal of Honor recipient and former Sen. Col. Leo Thorsness discussed his service in Vietnam and how it shaped his perspective.
“It was really inspiring to hear about how he made it through his confinement,” said Andie Hill, a Golden Valley High senior and the school’s Associated Student Body president. “It’s such a bigger scale compared to the things that we go through, but he related it to us so easily.”
“I liked his view on goal-setting, and how he talked about how he knew that if he could walk around his cell a certain number of times, then he knew he would be able to walk home,” she said.
Hill, who’s headed to Penn State in the fall, said she was particularly struck by Thorsness’ humility.
“He said just to always be humble in everything, that’s what he learned,” Hill said. “He said he accepted (the Medal of Honor) for all those who couldn’t be there to accept it.”
Thorsness engaged the students in a question-and-answer session after he talked about how he spent six years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.
“You could hear a pin drop in that theater,” said Thomas Flores, a Golden Valley assistant principal who was at the event. “And they gave him a standing ovation when he was done.”
Thorsness talked about how while he was in the jail, he and fellow prisoners developed a tapping code, and that communication was what helped keep them going.
Flores shared a part of Thorsness’ speech that he found particularly inspiring that talked about how Thorsness kept himself going.
The colonel was held in solitary confinement for long stretches, sometimes only seeing daylight once a month.
During one of these trips, he found a rusty nail on the ground and used it to slowly but surely eke out a peephole that would let him see outside of his cell
That view was what helped the colonel realize how lucky he was.
“He said it made him realize how lucky he was to be there, because he was born in a country with freedoms, instead of one that was communist, like the guard outside,” Flores said. “He said he was a very blessed person.”