VFW names annual essay contest winners at event

Monday, January 26, 2009
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Olin Parks, left, VFW District 15 commander, presents the first-place award in the Voice of Democracy district essay contest to Gabriel Eggers of Jackson on Sunday at VFW Post 3838 in Cape Girardeau. Sheila Allen, right, VFW District 15 Auxiliary president, presents the first-place award in the Patriot's Pen essay contest to Ryan McDaniel of Caruthersville, Mo.

The Cape Girardeau Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary held a special banquet Sunday afternoon to honor the 2008-2009 Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen's essay contest winners. About 150 VFW members, students, parents and guests gathered at the VFW hall in Cape Girardeau to acknowledge essay writers from the area.

The top three entries in both essay divisions were recognized along with honorable mention award winners. First-place winners Gabe Eggers of Jackson and Ryan McDaniel of Caruthersville, Mo., read their essays as part of the awards banquet.

"Our veterans' sacrifices have brought us the tangible gift of freedom," said Eggers, reading from his essay titled "Appreciation," which won first place in the district Voice of Democracy essay contest. "One does not receive such a gift without showing appreciation."

The topic for this year's Voice of Democracy speech was "How service and sacrifice by America's Veterans benefit today's youth." Eggers said his grandfathers' time in World War II and the Korean War made him think harder about the meaning of their service.

"I received a lot of the inspiration from my grandparents and what everyone had told me about their experiences during the wars. Their actions did not only help me, but people all over the world," Eggers said. "It gives you a sense of wonder that makes you say, 'Wow, what these people did was amazing.' It's hard to put into words."

Eggers' speech won first place among the 32 entries in the district. Olivia "Libby" Miles of Scott City took second place and Zane Winter, a high school student at Saxony Lutheran in Jackson, took third place.

Eggers was awarded $200 and a plaque for his achievement. He was also placed in the state competition, which will be Saturday in Jefferson City, Mo. The first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

McDaniel, first-place winner of the Patriot's Pen essay contest, will also be entered into a state competition. The first-place winner of that contest receives a $10,000 savings bond and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Ladies Auxiliary chaplain Yvonne Massey said students such as those who entered into the contests give her hope for the future of the nation.

"I know that the future is in great hands. It may take a while to get there, but it will be in great hands," Massey said.

In addition to recognizing the students, the VFW honored three area teachers. Myrna Carlisle of Morley, Mo., Deborah McGrate of Caruthersville and Martha Floyd of Jackson were recognized. Floyd, an English teacher at St. Paul Lutheran, was honored as the state middle school teacher of the year and will attend the state banquet next weekend.

The Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen essay contests are sponsored each year by the VFW and Auxiliary. Participation is open to high school and middle school students.

For more information, visit vfw.org.

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