The Veterans of Foreign Wars Jerry V. Horn Memorial Post # 10046 and its’ Ladies Auxiliary honored this year’s local Voice of Democracy (VOD) winner Tuesday, December 9th at a general membership meeting at the VFW Post in Soldotna. The prompt for this year’s national competition was “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans.” For some 15 years Rachel Jurco of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary has been coordinating the VOD program, “It started by NBC back in 1947 as an essay competition then the VFW became a partner them for a number of years until the Veterans of Foreign Wars took it over completely sometime in the early ‘60’s. It’s a program that has gone on for years and a lot of students have benefited and had life changing experiences through it,” said Jurco.
“Our local winner will go on to state this month and the winner of the state competition will win an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. and there will compete for a $30,000 dollar prize. Back in the ‘80’s we had a local winner take 2nd at the national level and many other of our local winners have made it to nationals over the years,” she said.
This year’s winner and recipient of $1,000 is a senior from Cook Inlet Academy Ben Standefer, “When I first read the prompt I knew I would need to do a lot of research on the subject because I have no life experience to draw from, but the more I studied the more appealing the topic became, and it is very interesting, all that America’s veterans have done for our country over the last two centuries, the freedoms we have now is because of them and what we will continue to have in the future will be from them and that was my theme and what I learned,” said Standefer in an interview.
After been read his essay to the VFW members who assembled emotions ran deep and Ben was given a standing ovation, “After listening to Ben’s speech I knew in my heart that is why we fight wars so that the future generation can have the opportunities that only freedom can provide and Ben understands that. Most people take for granted their freedoms but Ben understands where his freedom comes from and that’s the fruit of what we fight for,” said Post commander Mike Meredith.
Sen. Peter Micciche was on hand to offer his congratulations to this year’s winner as well and said, “Tonight we honor Ben and what stood out for me in his essay was when he said, ‘We walk in freedom at their expense. We are allowed to express ourselves because they have provided the safe ground to do so, we hope for the future because we know they are there to secure it.’ The theme of his essay demonstrates an advanced understanding of what it takes to make that level of sacrifice and I’m proud that our community appreciates our veterans and our youth a gleaning an understanding of freedom from them. I wish Ben well in the state competition,” said Micciche.