OCCHS student presents essay before national VFW officer
By: By SHERRI ONORATI, The Covington Leader
The Messenger 04.30.08
OCCHS STUDENT RECOGNIZED — Obion County Central High School sophomore Katie Jones (second from left) was recently a special guest at Veterans of Foreign Wars 4840/Ray-Pinner Post in Covington for a meeting where she delivered her Voice of Democracy essa
By SHERRI ONORATI
The Covington Leader
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was founded more than 100 years ago to raise awareness of the sacrifices of America’s veterans and to secure rights and benefits for their service.
With more than 2.3 million members, the VFW continues its mission today to “honor the dead by helping the living” by donating millions of volunteer hours, being a strong supporter of American youth, being a major supporter of patriotic and educational efforts and as an unwavering advocate to our military, its veterans and their families.
Recently, local VFW 4840/Ray-Pinner Post (in Covington), along with Post Commander Peter Fisher and Post Quartermaster Randy Martin, hosted a visit by national VFW commanders.
The visit, a first for the Covington post, was in recognition for the outstanding contributions the post has made for veterans.
“Post 4840 raised $4,000 for Operation Uplink this year,” said Ed Southern of Union City, Tennessee District 9 Commander. “That, along with the story of their opening in Covington, caught the interest of the national commanders. They specifically asked to visit the post.”
The visit by National Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Thomas Tradewell was part of a public relations tour used to get to know local VFW posts and the men and women who support local veterans.
“This is a beautiful post,” Tradewell said. “This location is a fitting site with the jet visible from the post. Also, having the youth center as a part of the post is a good meld in support of our work with local youth.”
In addition to touring the facilities, the guests were treated to hearing Tennessee’s District 9 winning essay for the VFW Voice of Democracy contest, given by Katie Jones of Troy. Miss Jones, who also works part-time at her father Randy’s restaurant, Cruizer’s Grill, baked and decorated a cake in honor of the national visit.
The 15-year-old Miss Jones wrote her first-place essay in honor of her father and veterans around the world as a part of an Honors English II class.
“I feel good that I am able to do something to support veterans,” said the Obion County Central High school sophomore. “Because of the sacrifices of my father and other veterans, I am able to worship the way I choose and pursue my dreams.”
Proud parents Randy and Cheryl Jones of Troy stood by and listened as their daughter presented her speech from memory to a roomful of American veterans, receiving a standing ovation at the end.
“It’s great that she’s received this honor,” Mrs. Jones said. “We encourage her in everything she sets her mind to. She always pushes herself to succeed.”
“She’s made me very proud of her that she’s written that story about something I feel so strongly about,” Miss Jones’ father added.
Tradewell mentioned that journalist Charles Kuralt won first place in the Voice of Democracy contest when he was younger and now there is a scholarship given in his honor each year. The winner of the second place $16,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship for the 2007-08 Voice of Democracy was awarded to Tennessee student Timothy Cody.
The Voice of Democracy competition provides high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors the opportunity to write and record a broadcast script on a patriotic theme, competing for more than $2.5 million in college scholarships. State winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete on the national level, with first place receiving a $30,000 scholarship.
“It’s up to veterans to make sure that patriotism is held in high regards and honored,” said Tradewell. “We must make sure our youth are kept updated on the sacrifices our veterans have made and continue to make.”
Tradewell stressed to the group of attendees the need to remember veterans and the sacrifices they have made for the country.
“We must make sure that our military vets are not forgotten by those in office,” Tradewell said. “Now it’s up to us as vets to ensure that they are keeping those promises made while campaigning.”
Along with Tradewell and Southern, other honored guests included Curtis Dawson, Tennessee State Sr. Vice Commander; Ken Miller, Tennessee State Judge Advocate; Charles Cassidy; Kathy Canaday of Union City, Tennessee State Chaplain; Henry Hooper II, Tennessee State Jr. Vice Commander; Ronald Cameron, All-American Department Commander; Darryl McPherson, State Commander; and Tom Jackson, National Council of Administration.
At the end of the visit, Tradewell thanked Fisher and Southern for the wonderful program and the gracious welcome.
“As I travel throughout the country, all I can say is thank you for all you’ve done, all you plan to do and all you continue to do,” he said.
Post Commander Peter Fisher was pleased at how well the visit went. “It was absolutely an honor and a treat to have the Junior Vice Commander here for a visit,” he said.
The following is the Tennessee District 9 first-place speech written by Miss Jones:
“My Role in Honoring
From the day I was born, I have been a veteran’s daughter or, as my father refers to me, a Desert Storm baby.
When I was little, I never understood what that meant and how much my freedom is worth. As I grew older, I learned the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, but what did they mean? Why did I hold my hand over my heart and stand straight and proud as I looked upon the flag? I learned this very well on Sept. 11, 2001, when all that Americans stood for was jeopardized and all of our hopes seemed to be demolished. And as my father, a veteran himself, lowered the flag at half staff, I began to understand why America is worth fighting for and why I am so proud to be an American.
From that day forward, I have wanted to obtain as much knowledge as I could about our country and its past. In my history class, I studied the Revolutionary War and what the men of our country did for my future when they fought and many died for my freedom. When they could have backed down and given up, they stood and fought to defend it. It is God and those men I give thanks, for I am thankful to be able to worship and to pray the way I choose as well as to share the opinions of my mind, heart and soul to anyone as inspiration or begin a dream.
If the men and women of the wars from involving our country had given up, where would we be today? Would there be the United States of America? Would I, a woman, be able to have political standing and be able to have an opportunity to vote for what I believe as right and wrong? Being an American is more than just a name, it is symbolic of who I am and where I come from. Every ounce of blood lost and tears shed on foreign soil have aided in the making of the American dream. The veterans who have fought for that dream are the ones who rekindle it year after year. They have stood and continue to stand in support of our country and uphold the American flag and its values. It is because of these veterans that we can set apart our differences, ideals, and desires because they fight for the red, white and blue.
Today our soldiers are still preserving those same morals, values and dreams as my father did. With the war in Iraq still ongoing, we are hopeful that the truth and faith that we believe in will hold steadfast and that our soldiers will come home soon. I know in my heart that what we are fighting for is a stronger America and a hope for a better future. The cost is great with lives on the line, but our soldiers know the truth that our forefathers knew before them; that the blood of patriots must sometimes be shed to protect the freedom of us all.
America, my homeland is truly a wonderful place to live, and I feel very blessed to live here. That is why it makes me proud to have my father as a veteran of the United States Marine Corps as he has served his country in preserving the American dream for me and others. Therefore as the daughter of a veteran, my role in honoring American veterans is to continue doing my duty to God and country. I will always not only honor my father, but all of the veterans of this great nation. I can and will do this by speaking my mind and letting my true feelings by known and letting the world know that I am an American.
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Sherri Onorati may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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