Friends connect dad with grad via Skype
CHRISTIANSBURG — Plenty of graduation gifts were handed out Tuesday night at Christiansburg High School, but it’s likely none traveled quite as far as the gift Peter Forney and his family received from his classmates.
The 2012 graduate’s father, Capt. Daniel Forney of the United States Navy, had originally planned to be in Christiansburg on the night of his son’s high school graduation, but because of an extension of his deployment, found himself more than 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan.
While the senior had seemingly come to terms with the idea of his father’s not being able to watch him receive his diploma, Peter Forney’s group of friends decided that was unacceptable and put a plan together to transmit the video feed of the ceremony halfway across the world.
Fellow senior Brandon Landreth admitted he couldn’t remember exactly who first came up with the idea and described it more as a group effort.
Despite this, it was Landreth and David Webb who spent their final seconds as high school students frantically attempting to use the combination of a laptop, cellphone hot spot and Skype to provide Capt. Forney with the broadcast.
Landreth estimated that the two had been setting up and troubleshooting the situation for about three hours, as they approached their final hurdle, getting Capt. Forney to answer his phone.
“Maybe he’s asleep, it is like 4 a.m. there,” Webb suggested.
Just as the graduating class began their march to the school’s gymnasium, the call was received and Capt. Forney’s picture appeared on the computer screen beside the transmission of the school’s video.
Both students quickly abandoned both laptop and cellphone in order to go graduate high school.
Peter Forney later said he had no idea any of this was going on. He said the first time he realized his father was getting to watch him graduate was when Principal Rhoda Poindexter asked him to stand and announced it to the packed gym.
“I was almost in tears, but I held it back,” Peter Forney said.
“I know that he wanted to be here, so it’s nice that he got to watch.”
As the new graduates piled into the cafeteria to search for family members to celebrate with, Peter Forney was led by his friends to the laptop where Capt. Forney remained connected in order to share a brief celebration with his son.
Though a brief moment, it was one that both will always remember.
“I felt pretty bad about missing it [the ceremony], but since I was able to watch and then chat with Peter immediately after, I feel like I was almost there,” Daniel Forney wrote in an email.
“It was a wonderful gift from the kids, and I will always remember this graduation,” he added.
Peter Forney’s mother, Deborah Forney, said she was overwhelmed by the group’s efforts, especially since most of them had only known her son for about two years.
She added that she believes the group played a key role in Peter Forney’s decision to stay in the area a bit longer, as he plans to attend Radford University in the fall in pursuit of a music business degree.
Daniel Forney is planning to return to Christiansburg in mid-June and return to his position as the commander of the Navy ROTC and professor of naval sciences at Virginia Tech in July.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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