There is a popular saying that goes, “Most important of all, every voice projects the personality of its speaker. In other words, voice determines Voice, (the capital letter indicating the quality of the human being behind the sounds he or she produces). Voices are unique, revealing and central to your ability to lead change in the world.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout the United States of American annually hosts local competitions for middle and high school students, challenging them to submit their writings on specific thought titles.
The VFW site notes that the competition is “dedicated to encouraging a better understanding and appreciation of America, the VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Essay competitions help foster patriotism among today’s youth, as well as friendly competition in competing for rewards and youth scholarships totaling $3 million.”
Winners compete locally, and the first-place winners then compete in the district. Those winners go forward to the state competition for a chance to share in scholarships among other awards. Nearly 40,000 students throughout the nation compete each year.
The two Youth Scholarship competitions were Patriots Pen for sixth through eighth-grade students, and The Voice of The Democracy is for students in high school.
Patriot’s Pen essay title was, “Why I honor the American Flag.” The first-place state winner won $5,000.
This year’s theme of Voice of Democracy audio-essay was “Why My Vote Matters” with the top prize being a $30,000 scholarship.
Locally, Ethan Martin won first place with the Patriots Pen and went on to place first in the district. His essay was entered in the state competition.
Martin shared that his mother felt that entering the competition could be a part of an English assignment. “I wanted to write this to honor my grandparents who served in the military from both sides of my family,” he said.
Martin also shared that his great-grandfather was in World War II, one “Grandpaw” fought in Korea and another “Grandpaw” on his father’s side was stationed in Alaska. Martin’s own dad served in the Air Force, was stationed in Alaska as well as in Turkey.
“I feel it is important that I honor my grandparents that served. I wanted to show a way to honor them and I just loved their stories that they have shared with me from serving our country,” Martin added.
Gavin Shires took first place in the Voice of Democracy audio-essay of “Why my vote matters.” Said the local student, “I chose to write because I feel it is important to maintain our democracy,” before adding that his sister served in the Navy and her soon-to-be husband is currently serving in the Navy. Shires placed second in the district.
The second-place winner was Laurel Pollock. “I wrote because I think it’s important to have our say when we want to make decisions about greater things in our society,” she said. “I also have a half-brother who did a six-month tour in Afghanistan recently, and he is also an alumnus of Craig County High School.”
Billy Lee, Commander of local VFW Post #4491, presented each of the winners with their awards. Shires and Martin each received a $75 check for their first-place local wins. Shires also received a $100 check for placing second in district and Martin got a $200 check for first in the district. Pollack took second place in local receiving a $50 check.
“We are very proud of all these kids,” Lee shared. “We thank them for taking the time to enter the contest and hope they go further in their competitions.”