State and local VFW leaders gathered among distinguished guests and students in a ceremony to honor the winners of the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contest on Saturday, January 23.
VFW Post 2330 Master of Ceremonies, Teddy Pipkin, asked that the altered setting via Zoom and Facebook live not put a damper on the spirit of the ceremony. “We are proud of each of the youth before us…”
Distinguished guests and VIP’s included VFW Auxiliary Scholarship Chairman Tommy Hughes, Auxiliary Secretary Karlene Beams, VFW Department of Arkansas Auxiliary President Martha Cothren-Ivy, VFW Department of Arkansas sponsor and presenter from Post 9095 – Little Rock Comrade Robert Fureigh, Department of Arkansas Patriot’s Pen Chairman Rodney Wood, Sponsor and presenter, past State Commander and National Council member Ashley A. Little, National Representative from the VFW of the United States, National Chief of Staff Rosalynn Cox, VFW Department of Arkansas Commander Donald Barnes.
According to Pipkin the number of entrants were down statewide, presumably because of the pandemic. Statewide, there were 580 entries for the Patriot’s Pen and 241 for the Voice of Democracy.
“Remember, America is the city on the hill,” shared Auxiliary President Martha Cothren-Ivy. “We want you to be the leaders of our country, thank you for your participation, keep up the good work and good luck today…” VFW Department of Arkansas Commander Donald Barnes echoed Ivy’s sentiment, quoting former NCAA basketball player John Wooden. “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of being.” Barnes went on to thank the students, parents and teachers for their efforts in the competition.
VFW of the United States, National Chief of Staff Rosalynn Cox expressed gratitude towards the post commanders for sponsoring the students as well as the districts. “The young people we honor today are the future of our country,” stated Cox. “They carry with them the same spirit that launched this great nation and that is what these programs are all about…What these students are today, America will be tomorrow and I know I am not alone when I say that I welcome that future with open arms.”
Ivy once again took the podium to declare the “Buddy Poppy” program winner. Ivy explained the history, importance and significance of the Buddy Poppy. Since 1922, the Buddy Poppy has been an integral part of the VFW as a memorial flower. The color represents the blood shed by American service members. It reiterates that the VFW will not forget their sacrifices. Disabled veterans assembly the poppies, and the VFW pays them for their work. Proceeds from the poppy distribution are used for veteran’s welfare, well-being or needs of the veteran’s dependents or orphans of veterans. There was a buddy competition among the posts and auxiliaries for category one, promotion of the campaign. The winner was from Post 2278 in Hot Springs.
This year’s Patriot’s Pen topic: “What is patriotism to me?” The following participants will receive a citation, and $50 gift card:
District 4 Post 4679, Harrisburg – Jerry Richmond
District 9 Post 2256, Benton – Nicholas Miller
District 1 Post 9834, Decatur – Catelynn Stearman
District 5 Post 4501, Batesville – Kimberly Stolarik
District 2 Post 8042, Evening Shade – Eli Higginbottom
District 10 Post 4124, Tayor – Makayla Roberts
The Patriot’s Pen third place winner, District Post 1322, Van Buren – Gianna Perreault, will receive a citation and a check totaling $150 from the VFW and Auxiliary. The second place winner, District 13 Post 4548, Jacksonville – Shaylynn Jackson, will receive a citation and a check totaling $300 from the VFW and its Auxiliary.
The Patriot’s Pen first place winner is forwarded on to nationals to compete for a $5,000 scholarship. The winner receives a plaque and a $500 scholarship sponsored by Ashley and Melissa Little. The family sponsors the scholarship in memory of Little’s cousin, U.S. Marine Corp Corporal Paul Alvin Harrison, who was killed in action May 2, 1968 in the Vietnam War. The recipient of the the Corporal Paul Alvin Harrison Memorial Scholarship and first place Patriot’s Pen essay winner was Morgan Hughs. He was sponsored by Kemp Bradford Memorial VFW Post 4764, Choctaw and District 6.
The Voice of Democracy awards were given out next. The topic was “this country that our founders envisioned.” The following fourth place participants will receive a citation and a $100 gift card:
District 13 Post 1316, Little Rock – Jane Landrum
District 2 Post 977, Salem – Trinity Sherrill
District 10 Post 4124, Taylor – Calie Grey
District 1 Post 2952, Springdale – Hailey Curbo
District 7 Post 1322, Van Buren – Noah Dieter
District 4 Post 5225, West Memphis – Mary Deese
The third place winner of the Voice of Democracy, District 5 Post 7514, Quitman – Evan Johnson. He will receive a citation, $1,000 scholarship and $25 from the Auxiliary. The second place winner, District 6 Post 4764 Choctaw – Luke Permenter, will receive a citation, $1,500 scholarship and $50 from the Auxiliary.
The first place Voice of Democracy winner, District 9 – Post 10483, Hot Springs Village – Sophia Wright, will advance on to compete nationally for additional scholarships up to $30,000. She will receive a plaque, $3,000 scholarship and $100 from the Auxiliary.
A congratulatory round of applause went out to all in attendance, as well as the students who showed extraordinary effort in the competition.