Sunday, September 30, 2018

Eighth graders discover "Incredibly Stupid" Vietnam veteran wise guy

Eighth-graders win second place for documentary about Vietnam veteran
Capital Journal Online
By Max Wirestone, Special to The Capital-Journal
Posted Sep 29, 2018
“There’s a lot people out there who do amazing things,” Christensen said. “But they don’t get credit or recognition for it. And I think they should.”
If there is a wave of student documentaries next year at Washburn Rural Middle School, gifted facilitators Lindsay McDowell and Alice Bertels will know why.

That is because two of their students — eighth-graders Megan Christensen and Meredith Kucera — won second place in the national Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes’ 2018 Discovery Award competition. The contest encourages middle and high school students to research and uncover the stories of positive role models whose contributions to history aren’t well-known.

Their winning documentary, “The Incredibly Stupid One,” is a profile of U.S. Navy veteran Douglas Hegdahl, who gathered critical intelligence from the North Vietnamese camp where he was held captive by pretending to be illiterate and mentally disabled.

The students were drawn to the project not because of the documentary aspect but because of their interest in the subject matter. read more here
Seaman Apprentice Douglas Hegdahl
Hegdahl, who was considered by the Vietnamese to be worthless in terms of intelligence information, was one of the first prisoners offered an early release. He didn't want to go and tried to behave so that he would be detained — at one point, when Tom Hayden was touring the prison camp, Hegdahl gave him the finger.

But his roommate pulled rank and ordered him to go, knowing that Hegdahl's remarkable memory would provide the government invaluable information and the families of prisoners immeasurable comfort. Hegdahl memorized the names of more than 300 fellow POWs, along with their Social Security numbers and an identifying trait such as a pet's name for confirmation.

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