The Ladies Auxiliary of R.W. Fritzinger VFW Post 7215, Walnutport, presented the awards for the Patriot's Pen essay contest on April 24. The essays were on the theme of "When is the right time to honor our military heroes?"
Post and District 20 Auxiliary President Karen Bandzi said the essays have to be 300 words long though slightly longer is acceptable.
In the audience were two sets of Gold Star Parents. One of them was Steven and Heather Farkas whose son, Dominic, was the first place winner. His grandparents were also present.
Commander Bruce Jones quickly turned the program over to Bandzi who welcomed everyone and introduced the fifth place winner, Kentyn Chambers. He also placed fourth in District 20. His parents are Pete and Candace Nickisher of Walnutport.
Chambers said it was late at night when he finished his essay. He had talked of having more military holidays such as Memorial Day and providing veterans with more money, but it just didn't seem right.
In the morning he talked with his Pap and what began as a normal conversation moved on to military service during World War II. His grandfather was in the Navy and was on two ships that sank. He got the Purple Heart.
"I can only imagine what it must have felt like. He is my military hero," said Chambers, who received a $50 Savings Bond.
Tyler Berghold of Northampton, son of Melissa Berghold, placed fourth and also received a $50 Savings Bond.
He said this country has had more casualties in Iraq than any other country. "Our soldiers were there for us. Now it's time we honor them," said Berghold.
Some died to never come home to their families. Soldiers should be honored by hanging the flag on the porch and by participation in programs such as Adopt a Soldier which may help brighten their days. "Think of their strength and dedication," he concluded.
Alison Reenock, the third place winner and first place in District 20, asked, "When is the right time to honor our heroes?"
"Our military heroes have died for us so we can live in a strong, resilient country," she said. "They work hard to keep us safe and also go to other countries and help there."
Among the ways the military can be honored is by participating in the observation of Veterans and Memorial days as well as special events held during the year.
"Show respect. It only takes a couple minutes," said Reenock. Her parents are James and Roseanne of Northampton. She received a $75 Savings Bond.
Megan Reed, winner of a $100 Savings Bond for her second place win, said the right time to honor the military is "every minute of every day." They sacrifice by leaving their families and friends.
She asked if the people in the audience would leave everyone behind and said those who join the military do. "They have answered 'yes' by joining the military."
People should be proud of these heroes. They should walk up to military personnel and thank them face to face. They will understand what the "thank you" is for.
Honor them all the time.
First place winner Dominic Farkas was accompanied to the podium by his grandfather, Jack Tully.
Farkas said in August 2009 his Uncle Michael Tully was one of two soldiers killed in an IED attack. He said to honor is to respect others. Showing that respect is the most anyone can do.
The best time to honor them is all the time. Think what they do for you.
Tully thanked the Veterans of Foreign Wars for having them there.
He and his wife Marilyn, along with Farkas' parents, Stephen and Heather, joined the band of Gold Star parents.
Another set of Gold Star parents, George and Patricia Geiger, lost their son, a member of the National Guard, Sgt. Christopher Geiger, on July 9, 2003. The VFW is paying for life memberships in the auxiliary for both mothers.
State Commander Frank Mills said millions of dollars are given each year in scholarships and essay contests to carry on the vision of a turn-of-the century organization formed to honor the military. He congratulated all the Patriot's Pen winners.
Bonnie Drake brought greetings from the VFW Auxiliary to all those who contributed in any way to the essays. "To the Gold Star parents and grandparents, I'm very sorry for your loss."
Gerald Harbin, District 20 commander, thanked the parents for raising their children "to be able to do something like this (the essays)."
Bandzi thanked English teachers Angie Bookman and Patricia Jones for "putting it all together." Because Bandzi only has to supply Jones with the materials, a certificate of appreciation was presented.