The Veterans of Foreign Wars Jerry V. Horn Memorial Post 10046 and its Auxiliary announced recently the local winners of this year’s Voice of Democracy (VOD) (grades 9-12) and Patriot’s Pen (grades 6-8) Programs. Students had the opportunity to compete in these annual scholarship programs to earn monetary awards and a trip to Washington D.C. for 1st place winners at the state level. According to VFW vice Commander John Walker, winning entries from each VFW Post in the state were judged according to national standards for the competition. This year’s essay prompt was “My Responsibility to America.” VOD started in 1946 and was originally sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters. Initially, there were four winners selected, representing the North, South, East and West regions of the country. Each winner received a $500 savings bond and a wristwatch. The second year of the program, a student by the name of Charles Kuralt, the late television news broadcaster and author, was one of the winners.
“We are proud to announce our local winners and congratulate Kianna Steadman, a 12th grade student from Soldotna High School for taking 1st place locally and winning $1,000 and then going on to place 2nd in overall state judging in the Voice of Democracy program. Kianna additionally was awarded a $500 prize from the VFW Department of Alaska. The winner in our Patriot’s Pen program Bailey Ann Epperheimer, a 7th grade student at Aurora Borealis Charter School, went on to place 3rd in overall state judging in the Patriot’s Pen program. She will be awarded $100 from the VFW Department of Alaska,” said Walker.
In an interview with the Dispatch Kianna spoke about her award winning essay, “When I was younger my sister would come home singing the song ‘God Bless the USA’ and I loved it, especially the chorus that states ‘I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free and I won’t forget the men who died to give the right to me.’ It turned my thoughts to the fighting men and women and all the sacrifices they made for us when I thought about the essay prompt ‘My responsibility to America’ I heard about the VOD from my high school counselor and thought it was a great scholarship opportunity. It’s amazing that those who have stood up and served our country continue to serve the future generations by giving of their personal finances to invest in youth,” said Steadman.
Placing second in the local VOD competition and winning a $500 prize was Carlee Rizzo a sophomore at Nikiski, “Being a sophomore and 15, not old enough to vote I had to think what I could do to meet my responsibility to America, so I made a list of things I could do and realized that you don’t to be 18 to get involved and be part of what is going on in our community and to be involved even if you can’t vote yet. So in my essay I made that point that we are the future and we need to prepare, be informed and involved with events going on in America. Entering in the VOD is a way of being involved and I intend to enter again next year. Sure the money is a factor, but the thinking process and learning that comes from putting your ideas and thoughts into an essay is the higher value,” said Rizzo.