A good veteran is hard to find. Just ask Anahita Yamouti.
Anahita and 350 of her fellow Fisher Middle School eighth-graders were asked to interview and document the story of a different veteran for a history class project.
First Anahita called The Terraces of Los Gatos only to be turned away because all the Veterans were taken.
Los Gatos Meadows put Anahita on hold, and asked her to call back several times.
In the end, Anahita's patience paid off. She was put in touch with a gem of a subject, Dr. Walter Brown, who served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy from 1940-46.
The soft spoken 94-year-old Memphis boy turned Los Gatos pediatrician regaled Anahita with stories, including the day he helped land the first wave of Marines on the shores of Guadalcanal during WW II in 1942.
Too busy to be terrified, Dr. Brown recalled the mission with crystal clarity.
“I was standing up in the boat, yelling ‘Keep your head down!‘ when a sharp shooter positioned in a palm tree blew a tooth right out of my mouth.”
Other than “bleeding like a stuck hog,” Dr. Brown was miraculously fine.
After completing their interviews, Anahita and other students invited the men and women they'd interviewed to a special Veterans Day Celebration at the middle school on Nov. 5.
The touching event was attended by 150 veterans, students, families and local dignitaries. It began with a ceremony that included the Posting of the Colors, the National Anthem sung by Fisher's choir, and a welcome by principal Lisa Fraser.
Fraser noted that there are currently 24 million U.S. veterans.
"By engaging our students in discussion about these crucial members of our society, our students have been able to hear from and about those who have helped shape American history," said Fraser. "Our hope is that our students will be encouraged to learn more of these often-unheard stories from those close to them."
Since 2001, of more than 2 million U.S. troops supporting Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 1 in 5 suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression—often referred to as invisible wounds.
Fraser said Fisher students have found a way to help these folks. The school's Builders Club, with the support of the Los Gatos Kiwanis Club, has raised more than $400 to donate to Operation Freedom Paws, a program that enables vets to train their own service dogs.
Following the ceremony, a reception offered a chance for students to thank and socialize with their Veterans.
One student, Ian Houts interviewed U.S. National Air Guard Member, John Groboske, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Most of the time we hear about WW II and Vietnam," said Ian. “It was interesting to hear a first hand account of a different war."
Wearing her flowered sundress-best, Anahita stood proudly by “her veteran,” Dr. Brown. “He's really nice, and he's funny!” she said. The feeling was mutual. “I've been interviewed all over the world, and Anahita is the best so far,” said Dr. Brown with a smile, revealing a gap in his upper right row of pearly whites.
Even though Dr. Brown laughed and said, “It's been 70 years and I'm still waiting for them to replace it,“ one guessed his missing tooth was a badge of courage he purposely never parted with.
Before she headed off to class, Anahita hugged Dr. Brown warmly. In that moment, it became apparent a history lesson had come to life, a sacrifice had been understood, a friendship had blossomed.
Then a silver town car pulled up to the curb of the middle school, and whisked a beaming Dr. Brown back to Los Gatos Meadows.