VFW Honors Patriot’s Pen & Voice of Democracy Winners

December 11, 2014

Student contest sends powerful message to veterans

Twenty-eighth District State Senator-elect Tony Hwang joined host Newtown Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 308 and elected officials and educators Friday to present awards to the student winners of the 2014 VFW District 1’s Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy competition.

The awards ceremony took place Dec. 5 in the Newtown Municipal Center, in front of a mural in honor of Newtown’s military veterans, two days before the 73rd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. It was a powerful ceremony, punctuated by an emotional reminder from VFW Post 308 Commander James Rebman to remember our servicemen and women stationed overseas who will not be home with their families this holiday season.

It was that theme of remembrance, reverence and respect for our nation’s veterans that emerged in the contest’s many submissions, and that was articulated by members of the judges panel during the awards ceremony.

The statements that elicited such thoughtful and compassionate responses from students for the Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contest were, respectively: “Why I Appreciate America’s Veterans” and “Why Veterans are Important to our Nation’s History and Future.”

Patriot’s Pen is a written contest, while Voice of Democracy challenged students’ ability to deliver their response through an audio recording.

Newtown Students Shine

This was an exciting year for the contest and for Newtown. The number of Newtown submissions for Patriot’s Pen skyrocketed up from 14 last year to 89 this year, and students from the town’s schools represented well at the district level, too. Six went on to compete at the district level, and two placed in the top three for Patriot’s Pen and one in the top three for Voice of Democracy.

VFW Post 308 Patriot’s Pen competition had participation from students at St. Rose, Reed Intermediate and Newtown Middle School. Patriot’s Pen is open to students in grades 6 – 8. Voice of Democracy is open to students in grades 9-12 and had student participation from Newtown High School and Shelton High School. Local winners were then judged against winners from other towns throughout the VFW’s District 1. All judging was done blind, so that judges did not know the name, school or town of any submissions.

VFW District 1 encompasses 22 towns within Fairfield County and is 1 of 6 regional districts within the state, which has a total of 122 VFW posts and nearly 40,000 members.

Quotes from Judges & Local Officials

“We are so happy to see the increased participation this year for both Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy. Our students did a marvelous job and we are very proud of all of them. We want to thank their teachers and the administration which supported these competitions. We also want to thank the panels of judges for both the Newtown Post and District 1 competitions. Their participation made this event an unbiased event we are very proud of.” – Walter Dolan and Donna Monteleone Randle, Newtown VFW Contest Co-Chairs

“Reading these essays, I felt I had to thank God for each of you.” Rev. Jim Solomon, pastor of New Hope Community Church in Newtown, who served as a judge

“It was a privilege to serve as a judge and evaluate such powerful and emotional expressions of respect and appreciation for our military veterans. The ceremony held under the beautiful mural paying respect to Newtown’s military contributions was fitting because the award winners’ words foster patriotism and respect for our military. It also reinforced the VFW mission in fostering patriotism and doing more for veterans.” – State Senator-elect Tony Hwang (R-28), who served as a judge in the District 1 Voice of Democracy contest

“To hear that so many of Newtown’s youth submitted entries for this year’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen was encouraging. Knowing that these students have embraced an appreciation for our veterans shows their maturity and their respect for those that have served our country. I was honored to be part of the ceremony to recognize those who were chosen as winners.” – J.P. Sredzinski, state Rep.-elect (R-112)

“It is always an honor to help our VFW District. The work they do to support our veterans is to be commended. To hear firsthand how many of our youth feel about our veterans’ sacrifice is heartfelt and appreciated. It is efforts like the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen that will enrich us all, and ensure we will never forget the freedom our soldiers have given us.” – Steven Vavrek, First Selectman, Town of Monroe

About the Awards

Voice of Democracy

Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $2.2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition.

The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles.

The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each (State) VFW Department wins an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Patriot’s Pen

Each year more than 100,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest. The first-place winner from each state competes to win one of 46 national awards totaling $46,000. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in March.

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.

To learn more about Newtown VFW Post 308, please visit their website: http://vfwpost308.com/index.htm