What does service mean to you? How do we celebrate our veterans' service?
Area students had the opportunity to answer that question during the annual "Patriot's Pen" and the "Voice of Democracy" writing contests sponsored nationally by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and by the local Brazil VFW Post 1127.
Both contests are designed to give voice to the patriotism of the youth of our country.
Middle school students, grades 6 through 8, participate in the Patriot's Pen, writing on the topic of "What does service mean to me?"
Using this as a base, a student must compose a 300-400 word essay that best relates their own ideas on the subject of service to their country.
"We always have quality work to choose from," said Post Adjutant John Schraedley, the committee chairman who announced this year's winners. "But we would like to have more students participate next year."
High school students, grades 9 through 12, must not only write the essay, but also create a 3-5-minute audio version of their essay to compete in the Voice of Democracy. This year's theme is "Celebrating Our Veterans' Service."
All of the entries are judged by a committee established by the local VFW of post and community members. Once the local winners are chosen, they advance to District 7 competition, the state competition, and finally to national competition. There are prizes for each level of competition, which are designated by the individual judging committees, but the one every contestant hopes for comes at national level.
The middle school contestant that wins the national grand prize receives a $10,000 savings bond.
A high school contestant who wins the overall national competition re-ceives a $25,000 scholarship paid directly to the American school of the student's choice and an all-expense paid trip to tour Washington. These funds, which are held in escrow for 10 years upon high school graduation, can be used for tuition, books, or other items specifically related to the student's formal education.