Texas Country Reporter turns fifty in October 2022. Each week until then, we’ll share classic episodes from the show’s history and behind-the-scenes reflections from TCR’s creator and host, Bob Phillips.

An appreciation for the past—how we got to where we are today—is something many folks acquire with age. It’s often assumed that young people don’t care much about things that happened before they were born, and as a young man I was guilty that myself. But it’s not a particularly helpful view, especially when you’re confronted with compelling evidence to the contrary, as we were in 2006 at Spade School.

The 2006 graduating class at Spade School was singular crop. Not only were they to be the last graduating class of the town’s only public school, which served grades K–12, but the class of five seniors decided to share its spotlight with a special person who attended their school some 58 years earlier.

In 1948, Sherman Jones dropped out of high school, lied about his age, and joined the military so he could fight in the Korean War. He was captured in a battle in which half of his unit, more than three hundred soldiers, were wiped out by the enemy. Sherman and more than one hundred others were taken prisoner and then subjected to the infamous Korean War death march and Sunchon tunnel massacre. There were few survivors.

As Sherman’s peers were earning their diplomas at Spade School in 1950, he was left for dead in North Korea after having been shot in the bottom of his foot and in the back of his head. Somehow, he lived to see another day.

Finally in 2006, at 75 years old, Sherman Jones was going to walk and get that diploma, thanks to a group of kids who took an interest in what he went through to fight for their country. Sherman died in 2019.

It would be one of the most emotional evenings any of us on the TCR crew had ever spent. And it would be one of the most important stories we would ever tell.