Hogge, Florez Place in VFW Voice of Democracy Contest

VFW logoVFW Post 8469 announced the winners of its Voice of Democracy contest on Nov. 16. First place went to James P. O’Hara, Robinson High School; second to Katelyn Hogge and third to Briana Florez, both of Paul VI. “The point spread separating the three winners was small,” said Sandy LaCroix, Post 8469 VOD Chairman, “and an indication of the high quality of the entries.” The post awards reception is tentatively set for Dec. 10.

Why Veterans Are Important to our Nation’s History and Future
By Katie Hogge

George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  As a student of American History, I have been asked to memorize hundreds of names, dates, battles and treaties, but have quickly forgotten most of them.  However, as an 8th grade student at Rocky Run Middle School, I had the opportunity to forget about the pure memorization for a day and interact with a group of WWII veterans.  I was honored to learn about our country’s history second-hand, through those who were actually there.  The experiences that these patriotic Americans shared with me that day touched my life and left an impression on my heart and mind that will affect the way I view history and future events for the rest of my life.  I believe that this is what veterans provide our nation — a living, breathing testament to the past.  Not only did they risk everything they had to better our country and to stand up for everyone back home when they went to war, they have continued to serve our country on their return.  Their lives are a reminder of our country’s past, what our nation values, and what sacrifices others have made so that we may live in the nation that is not only the greatest, but also home to millions of proud Americans.

Our preparation for the WWII Day at Rocky Run Middle School was a long one because we were very careful to make sure everything we did honored the veterans from the moment they arrived.  We paid attention to every detail because we wanted to show the veterans that they were truly appreciated.  Students volunteered to go to the airport with signs and posters to give the veterans a heroes welcome when they arrived in D.C.  We also planned in advance the attire we would wear in order to show the veterans respect, we prepared questions to ask so we could record their experiences, and we planned ceremonies and activities we thought they would enjoy throughout the day.  What we could not prepare for was how they would touch our hearts.  I remember a small group of students, myself included, were conducting an interview with a petite, elderly gentleman.  He sat in the school’s plastic chair wearing his army hat, one hand on his cane and the other nestled in his wife’s hand.  He told us dozens of stories, which are, and will forever be ingrained in my memory.  We interviewed him and recorded his answers, and he fascinated us with stories that were intense, sad, and sometimes even funny.  The moment that I realized how much the war had touched him was when he began to cry.  His wife held his trembling hand as the tears welled up in his eyes, remembering the story of how his best friend had died while fighting shoulder to shoulder with him.  It had been decades since this event had occurred, yet the mere memory of it still broke the man down.  Once he had collected himself, he told us the entirety of his story.  What really surprised me was when he told me he never regretted joining our country’s armed forces, not even for a minute.  He was proud to have fought for our country, and would do it again.

Not only does Rocky Run Middle School welcome these servicemen one day each year to touch the lives of its students, they allow these men and women to tell their stories and archive their accounts for future generations to study.  I am proud that I was a part of that effort.  Although this generation, often referred to as “The Greatest Generation” is aging, and we are losing their living stories, they have left us lessons through the written word, pictures, movies and experiences.  I am confident that my time listening to their stories, unlike the time I spent memorizing facts to complete a test, will help me remember the past.  And I believe that these veterans speaking and touching the lives of the generations behind theirs will certainly touch the future.  Through these veterans, we will remember the past, and we will not be condemned to repeat it.

Katie Hogge

Why Veterans Are Important to our Nation’s History and Future
By Briana Florez

I believe that if one group of people should be established as the most valued, that group should be veterans. Without our veterans, we might not have the same freedom and liberty that we have as a luxury, today. Veterans are just as equally important to our future.

Our Korean War veterans know what it is like to fight a gruesome war against communism, and so do our Vietnam War veterans. Our Iraq War veterans know what it is like to fight a long and tiresome battle against some of the most, unimaginably, cruel individuals, such as Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. These veterans also know however, what it takes to achieve victory, and what victory will do for our country. Our veterans are a key aspect to our nation’s future as they can use their power of wisdom to guide our nation’s leaders.

According to CNN, there are approximately, 1,711,000 World War II veterans, 2,275,000 Korean War veterans and 7,391,000 Vietnam War veterans that are still living today. In a way, they have “seen it all,” and we can learn an extraordinary amount from them. It is important that veteran’s voices be heard in politics and in every other aspect. They know what it takes to struggle and fight for freedom, peace, opportunity, dignity and all other qualities that define the United States of America.

My father is a Korean War veteran. Throughout my life I have had the privilege of hearing all his stories from his time in Korea. From his stories I have come to understand the hardships those soldiers faced; food and resource shortages, dramatic climate change, technological difficulties, and of course the constant battle against communism. Veterans like my father care so much about this country’s well-being, and have so many stories to share, so much advice and wise words of wisdom. Our country needs to open our ears and listen to them, because not only are they an important part of this country’s historical success, but they can also contribute a great amount to our nation’s future success.

Veterans contribute to our nation’s future in numerous ways. There are a good number of politicians that also happen to be veterans. I believe that a politician who is also a veteran, is an outstanding combination because it allows them to make decisions regarding war, our military (etc.) based on their own experiences and gained knowledge from serving in the military. A good example of this, is Arizona Senator John McCain. Senator McCain is a Vietnam War veteran. In 1967, he was shot down while on a bombing mission, became greatly injured, and was seized by the North Vietnamese. Until 1973, Senator McCain was a prisoner of war. Throughout that time, Senator McCain never turned on our country, refusing to offer any information to the North Vietnamese. That takes an extraordinary amount of determination and pride, of which almost all veterans share. Similar to Senator McCain, many other veterans who are politicians, parents, coaches, teachers, law enforcement, (etc.) have the capability to share with younger generations key insight to enable success, especially regarding our military. It is important that they share with us their knowledge, as my generation will one day be our nation’s leaders.

Veterans deserve to be heard, and given the utmost respect. Many veterans have put their own lives on the line just for the sake of our country. There is nothing that defines American pride more than that. Leaders can only become great when they learn from the greatest leaders. Veterans often are the greatest leaders. They have experienced first-hand, things that most of us will never even begin to understand. This country would simply not be where it is today, without our veteran’s valiant efforts during wars, and our nation cannot and will not succeed to its greatest potential without our veterans’ valuable wisdom.

Florez is the editor-in-chief of Panther Press

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