VFW’s “What Makes America Great”

                                                                                                                                       Photo Submitted
Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen essayists pictured from left, front: Auxiliary Pres. Princess Fahnestock, Ryleigh Barton, Finley Sullins, Riley Moloney, Darrell Hickcox and Lilly Scheliga; back: Michael Hollingsworth, Madison Graeff, Hannah Tillery, Aubrie Tillery, Ashlyn Burns and CDR Billie Krewson.
By Christy Porter
Managing Editor

The 250 student entries for the VFW Voice of Democracy and the Patriot’s Pen competition shared this year’s theme of “What Makes America Great.”
The awards banquet for the local level was held Monday, Jan. 20 at the Licking Memorial VFW Post 6337. In spite of wintery weather a sizable crowd of 80 – 85 students, guests, VFW members and Auxiliary attended the banquet and presentations.
Billie Krewson, VFW Post 6337 Commander, believes the entries this year showed the diversity of our community and how youth with family veterans had a different perspective on what “greatness” actually meant. They expressed that veterans and the military had fought and died or been willing to do so to make America great. He read a majority of the youth entries on “What Makes America Great” and noted that they ran a whole gambit of responses.
The evening began with a blessing, dinner and proceeded with introductions of Krewson as VFW Commander; Auxiliary President, Princess Fahnestock; Krewson again as VOD Chairman; and PP Chairman, Cassie Ingram. Committee Members Aaron Hall, Ed Folger, Harry Brevort, Susan Brevort and Devon Ingram; faculty and principals from Houston, Licking and Success schools were also recognized. The Patriot Pen winners were recognized followed by the Voice of Democracy winners. First place winners then read their essays to the audience.
The nationwide competition is sponsored beginning at the local VFW post level and continues to a regional/district level, state and a national level. Winners receive awards and prizes at each level culminating in scholarships at the national level. This year’s winners at the local level received a unique competition fob in addition to cash prizes.
                        Photo by Christy Porter
The VOD competition is for participants in grades 9 through 12 and is a 3 -5 minute audio recording and written copy of the same based on the annual theme. Originality, imagination and human interest should be clearly expressed with developed ideas. Two schools participated this year with cash prizes for first place, $200 and second place, $150. Houston winners are: Madison Graeff, first place and Michael Hollingsworth, second place; Licking winners are Aubri Tillery, first place and Hannah Tillery, second place. There was one interesting entry from a foreign exchange student, Miloz Lyczak, Houston, which was not eligible for competition but is noteworthy. No entries were received from Plato or Raymondville this year.
The Patriot’s Pen competition is for participants in grades 6 -8 grades, advancing as in the VOD competition. In addition to receiving scholarships at the national level they also receive an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. This entry has a history focus combined with a student’s own experience living in modern American society. It is key to have knowledge of and have researched the annual theme, which is developed with clarity of expression in the presentation of the 300 – 500 word essay. Three schools participated this year with cash prizes for first place, $75; second place, $50 and third place, $25. Houston winners are: Ashlynn Burns, first place; Lilly Scheliga, second place; Darrell Hickcox, third place; Licking winners are Finley Sullins, first place; Ryleigh Barton, second place; Riley Moloney, third place and Success winners are Micah Manion, first place; Bailee McCutchen, second place and Hayden Brannan, third place. Success students were unable to attend the banquet due to weather conditions. No entries were received from Plato or Raymondville this year.
Dinner was catered by Joyous Folger and included delicious choices of lasagna, chicken alfredo, pizza, garlic bread and mashed potatoes and gravy. The VFW Auxiliary provided additional sides and desserts with drinks provided by the VFW Post.  
“It’s good to see patriotism growing in our youth and being nurtured by family, school and community. It makes me proud and happy,” says Krewson.

Voice of Democracy First Place
What Makes America Great
By Madison Graeff,
Houston High School, Houston, Mo.
Teacher: Ms. Cremer
 “Make America Great!” It’s a phrase that has been on everyone’s mind since the 2016 Presidential election. From banners to hats to posters to high-rise billboards, it is not hard to see why it is stuck in your head like a Christmas jingle. Trump’s key phrase is let’s “Make America Great Again.” This implies that America was not great at the moment. Let’s think about this for a minute.
What actually qualifies a country as being great? It’s not that someone told you when you were in kindergarten that the United States is such a wonderful place so they must be right. It’s not because we have all these freedoms “that other countries don’t have.” There are many other countries that have the same if not more freedoms than we do. In fact, according to FreedomHouse.org, the United States ranked fifty-eighth on the list of countries with the most freedom. But, that is not what determines the quality of a country.
Sure, America might have her flaws, but what country doesn’t? What matters is that in times of crisis, we put aside our differences and come together to fight the common evil. When the planes hit on September 11, 2001, and the tornado that leveled a town in Missouri and killed over one hundred people, or when Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary, all of these horrible events brought neighbors together and ultimately the entire country. Citizens were helping in every way they could think of to pull people from the towers; several people on boats joined with the Marines to do the largest boatlift in history, 500,000 people were evacuated in nine hours. The second largest evacuation to date is Dunkirk and still only roughly 338,000 people were transported. And, all of that was uncoordinated! After the tornado had ripped its path, local people and businesses donated their time and resources to clean up and rebuild the town of Joplin.
Every tragic event that has happened has done its damage to America; however, each event strengthened us and prepared us for the next disaster. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? It doesn’t matter that we aren’t the best when it comes to politics and governmental issues. In every United States citizens’ hearts is good and a sense of pride to be part of something bigger than themselves, so it is no surprise that everyone wants to protect that. When times call for it, we all help out one another and every little action helps. And, that is what makes America a great country to live in and to be a part of.

Patriot's Pen First Place
What Makes America Great?
By Finley Sullins
Licking High School, Licking, Mo.
 Benjamin Franklin once said, “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting, but now I know that it is a rising sun.” This quote is about the sun on George Washington’s chair. Benjamin Franklin uses the words rising and setting to show that he did not know if the sun symbolized the end or the beginning of the United States of America. Now we know that it was only the opening for many great things for the United States. What makes America great is its bravery and helpfulness that brings many opportunities for its citizens.
The bravery and sacrifice citizens face for America is one of many things that make the U.S. the distinguished country it is today. With bravery comes sacrifice. Some people show bravery by fighting in wars and risking their lives. Those people leave behind loved ones. Some people must make difficult decisions that could determine whether they win or lose the battle. It takes bravery to not give up, let go, and lose hope but to stand strong and have faith instead. America is the country it is today because of this bravery and sacrifice.
America gives many opportunities to its citizens. We don’t have one set course for our lives. We get to choose our jobs and to be ourselves. In the United States, you have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In some countries, they choose the life for their citizens. They decide what their job will be and when they retire. Their lives are controlled, but here we have the freedom to make choices.
America helps in so many ways. It aids the less fortunate. It is essential in trade toward other countries. It provides sanctuary to people. America has programs to help veterans. It has nutritional efforts to help the starving people here and around the world. Trying to make this country and the globe a better place shows how helpful and compassionate the United States of America is.
The United States has been a powerful country for many years. Thanks to the opportunities provided here, the sacrifices and bravery it took to get here, and the helpfulness towards its citizens and other countries, we have this land to call home. I am honored and grateful to live in such an amazing and beautiful country.

Voice of Democracy entry
What Makes America Great?

By Miloz Lyczak, foreign exchange student

Houston High School, Houston, Mo.
Teacher: Ms. Cremer
 In my opinion, America stands out from all the other countries with quite a few aspects. You can’t really compare it to any other place on the planet as all the states are different from each other. If you visited three different states in three different regions of America, you would experience completely different cultures, foods, and traditions.
First of all, America is a huge place. You could travel for months or even years and still find something new every single day. We can use Missouri and Colorado as a comparison; if you spent a year in both of these states, you would think you spent two years in separate countries that are far away from each other. Different weather, different landforms, different people, a completely different place. It’s not possible to summarize this country in a single sentence or paragraph as it’s just too complex and interesting to do so.
Secondly, America offers tons of opportunities for young people like me to develop our characters and prepare ourselves for the adult life. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a basketball player, surgeon, or a musician, you can work on becoming any of these people in America and get massive support from people in your surroundings.
America features pretty much every culture from around the world since many people come here from different countries or even different continents. Just by living here, you get to meet so many amazing people that are openly willing to let you learn about their cultural background and their country traditions. You don’t have to travel the whole world to meet new people, you can just do it here, in America.
To summarize, there are no places without flaws, that is undeniable. But, as long as we are trying to fix them and to improve our own communities, we are on the right path to make this country an even better place. And, that is what makes America so great.



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