The VFW promotes patriotism through their student essay contests
By Jeff Dombroff, Senior Vice Commander, VFW Post 9835
The men and women of the Robert E. Laing Memorial Post 9835 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States have three things in common: military service in a combat zone, a strong desire to help other veterans, and a willingness to continue serving their community. Veterans all, they represent all five service branches in conflicts from World War II up to the most recent conflicts in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Led by Post Commander Tim Nosal, a retired Naval officer who served in Iraq, they meet monthly to shape their Post’s impact on the community. Money from their relief fund (known as the “Poppy Fund” after the famous symbolism in Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field”) has helped to develop the Sheriff’s Department’s Law Enforcement Scout program, to assist veterans at the homeless shelter and free clinic, and gone to repair veterans’ headstones after an act of cemetery vandalism.
This fall, the VFW’s relief funds will be supporting another worthy cause–patriotism among students. The organization’s two annual student essay contests are currently accepting submissions through October 31, 2017. Both contests seek to instill values of freedom and appreciation in younger generations.
Students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are eligible to enter the Patriot’s Pen youth essay competition. The nationwide contest requires a 300 to 400 word written essay on a topic selected by VFW Headquarters, for a grand prize award of $5,000 at the national level. This year’s topic is “America’s Gift to My Generation.”
High school students may enter the Voice of Democracy audio essay competition. With a $30,000 grand prize award at the national level, students must record a three to five minute essay on the theme “American History: Or Hope for the Future.”
In 2016, students from four Fauquier County middle schools and two high schools submitted essays to the Post. Aside from receiving medals, certificates, and cash awards, the top three entries were also evaluated at the district level. A student from Cedar Lee Middle School earned second place honors at District.
The VFW continues to encourage the contest’s growth. “We’re hoping to involve many more of the county’s schools this coming fall,” Post Quartermaster Gary Robinson says. As involvement builds, the veterans of the Post continue to serve by passing on their patriotism to even the younger members of their community.
For combat veterans who may be interested in learning more about the VFW, Post 9835 meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Warrenton Visitor Center. Eventually, the Post hopes to have their own building or “Post home.” It is a goal of the Post to acquire a building that can serve as a gathering place for veterans and location for post activities.
2017-2018 Theme: “America’s Gift to My Generation”
Patriotic Essay Writing Contest Grand Prize: $5,000 Award
Student Entry Deadline: October 31, 2017
Word Count: 300-400 typewritten words
For information on entering, visit www.vfw.org/community/youth-and-education/youth-scholarships
Voice of Democracy
2017-2018 Theme: “American History: Our Hope for the Future”
Patriotic Audio Essay Competition Grand Prize: $30,000 Award
Student Entry Deadline: October 31, 2017
For information on entering visit their website at www.vfw.org/community/youth-and-education/youth-scholarships.
NOTE: Each school will have an assigned point of contact within the school to gather the submissions, such as the Guidance Office. But if not, students should submit entries directly to the VFW Post 9835, PO Box 163, Warrenton, VA 20188. Home Schoolers are also eligible and will need to mail their entries. For more information on VFW’s essay contests, go to www.vfw.org/community/youth-and-education/youth-scholarships.
About the Author
Jeff Dombroff served in the US Army from 1964 to 1972, leaving service as a Captain. He worked for Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna Va and retired in 2006. He and his wife Susan have been residents of Fauquier County since 1990.