By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Thoughts on patriotism and why they are optimistic about America’s future are weaved through students’ winning essays in contests sponsored by the VFW and its auxiliary.
As local winners in the Imperial VFW Post 4688’s Voice of Democracy and the VFW Auxiliary’s Patriot’s Pen contests, students read their essays at Sunday night’s annual Veterans Day dinner.
In addition, the students took home some cash prizes, and three of the essays will now move on to district competition.
Post Commander P.J. Pajerski expressed appreciation to the local teachers who encourage students to enter the annual contests. They are Mark Bottom, Renae Bottom and Jill Bauerle.
Voice of Democracy is open to high school students, and this year had the theme, “Why I Am Optimistic About Our Country’s Future.”
The Patriot’s Pen contest is open to grades 6-8, whose theme this year was “What Does Patriotism Mean to Me?”
Winners in the Voice of Democracy contest and their prize money were 1st Emma Bauerle $75, 2nd Mindy Castle $50 and 3rd Emma Mollendor $25. All are juniors.
Patriot’s Pen winners were 1st Hayley Vitosh $50, 2nd Jack Bauerle $35 and 3rd Caine Haarberg $25. All are eighth graders.
Emma Bauerle’s Voice of Democracy essay will move onto the district contest early next year, where it will compete with a possible other 18 essays from other Posts in District 4. There were about 20 entries received locally.
Essays by both Vitosh and Jack Bauerle will move on to the district Patriot’s Pen competition due to the number of local entries which numbered 37, Pajerski said.
Students who were present Sunday night, including Mindy Castle, Emma Bauerle, Jack Bauerle and Caine Haarberg, read their essays to the 50 people attending the dinner and program at the VFW Hall. Family members of Hayley Vitosh and Emma Mollendor, who could not attend, read their essays.
Pajerski, in an address to the crowd after the meal, said Nebraska ranks high in its support of veterans.
Nebraska can boast of the highest number of claims paid to wounded veterans in the country, he said.
The state is also getting a new veterans home in Kearney, and a veterans cemetery in Alliance has recently been completed.
Much of those accomplishments, Pajerski said, can be credited to former state senator John Hilgert, who heads the Division of Veterans Homes within the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Pajerski also said there continues to be interest in construction of a Veterans Memorial in Chase County, possibly near the courthouse or airport.
However, such a project takes money to build, he said, and a perpetual fund to keep it going and to pay for lights, water and other upkeep.
Sue Moore, president of the Imperial VFW Ladies Auxiliary, will become president of the state organization in Nebraska in three years. She currently serves as state chaplain.
She said the national organization has considered allowing men to join the auxiliary the past two years, but it has been voted down at the national conventions, to her dismay.
According to the VFW website, veterans who received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay are eligible to join the VFW organization.
Many, like her son, however, have served in the U.S. military, even overseas, but not during a conflict or war, so do not meet the membership criteria, and cannot join either organization. Other men may have had wives serve in the military, and are unable to join either, she noted.
While there is a VFW men’s auxiliary organization, it is not very active in most states, she said.
Members of the Post and auxiliary organized the turkey dinner Sunday night. Many veterans from the community were special guests.