VFW lauds students for patriotic essays

Voice of Democracy winners are, standing from left, Tyler Sherman, Kristyn Hietla, and Kelly Gallagher. Front from left are JT Roulier, Ethan Parsons, and Jacob Powers. Sentinel photo/Pixie Sulser
Voice of Democracy winners are, standing from left, Tyler Sherman, Kristyn Hietla, and Kelly Gallagher. Front from left are JT Roulier, Ethan Parsons, and Jacob Powers. Sentinel photo/Pixie Sulser

By Pixie Sulser

Ramona’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3783 honored the winners of its annual student scholarship essay contest at a recent dinner at the post.

Honorees, their families, and nominating teachers received accolades for their participation in the organization’s national Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy scholarship competitions.

From the 34 Patriot’s Pen essays the post received, eighth-grader JT Roulier’s essay response to the 2012 theme — “What would you say to our founding fathers?” — took first place honors. As the first place winner, JT’s work represented Ramona at the San Diego district level where it also took first place, earning his work the distinction of competing at the state level.

Eighth-graders Jacob Powers and Ethan Parsons placed second and third, respectively, with essays on what they would say to our founding fathers. Each essay winner received a certificate of recognition, a Patriot’s Pen participant pin, a VFW Post pin, and a scholarship check.

At the high school level, students must write and record a speech responding to the Voice of Democracy contest theme. This year, participants spoke to the question, “Is the Constitution still relevant?” Twenty-seven students answered that query so succinctly that it took three rounds and much debate among the committee, according to VFW Program Chair Doug Scholl, before the top three were selected.

RHS senior Kelly Gallagher’s words received first place honors at the local level earning her a $250 scholarship check. Gallagher, whose GPA is 4.5, is a four-year member of the school’s Associated Student Body (student government) and a four-year athlete on the tennis team.

In addition, as the student representing RHS on Ramona Unified School District’s school board, she attends the board’s monthly meeting, where she presents reports to the trustees and answers questions from the board or comments about how district issues affect students. Next year she plans to begin studying nursing at either SDSU, USD, Point Loma University or UCLA.

Second place Voice of Democracy winner Kristyn Hietala, a junior at RHS, is a member of the school choir, the lacrosse team, and the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Club.

Senior and U.S. Naval hopeful Tyler Sherman earned third place recognition for his response to the relevancy of the Constitution.

Tyler is a 4.0 student athlete on the RHS baseball team as well as a member of the National Honor Society and the ROTC program.

“Post 3783 has been actively engaged in the Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy competitions for several years, and every year it has gotten bigger,” said Scholl. “The judging this year was so difficult. It was obvious the students had done research which truly allowed them to capture their values and personal priorities.”

Is the Constitution still relevant?

Kelly Gallagher This year alone, an estimated 16 million people will visit Washington, D.C. Sure, the weather can be nice if you go in the springtime, and the cherry blossoms may be blooming. But it is not the weather or even the beckoning blossoms that have the ability to draw such an enormous crowd. The reason for their travels can be found beneath an inch of bulletproof glass in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives. To the eye, it is just ink and parchment, words on a page. But to the American heart, it is the planted seed that grew into the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is the root of our country, the foundation upon which this great nation is built. Something that 16 million people will travel to see each year. In response to the question: Is the Constitution still relevant? The answer is obvious, yes. The Constitution itself even states its relevancy for future generations in the preamble, explaining its mission to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The Constitution is a shield to all opposing forces. It protects citizens from tyranny, political abuse, foreign attack, and domestic issues, instead providing citizens with security, opportunity, and stability. This type of honest democracy is invaluable. Nearly flawless in its creation it is truly astonishing that one document has been able to successfully uphold and promote the success of the United States for hundreds of years. It is a genius work of art that is crucial to our everyday lives. The question is not how does the Constitution affect us, but rather, how does it not? Let us take a regular day for an average citizen. It is Sunday morning, and Jane Smith will wake up in her home, having felt secure throughout the night, knowing her home was protected. She drives on a safe highway, where once again she is protected, but also given the right to travel freely. Her destination is her church, where she will freely practice her religion. After church, she heads back out on the road in her car, which she can trust to be safe in the case of an accident. She goes out to breakfast to eat in a local cafe, where her food is prepared according to health standards. She will pay with currency that is protected and valued. After eating, she heads to the bank where she will deposit her check she has earned from working, at a job where she is given just pay and benefits. Part of that check will be used to pay off a home loan, so that she may own property. She will return home to watch the news and discuss it openly with her children, without fear of repercussion, knowing she has the right to free speech. That night, she will receive a call from her husband, who is currently serving in the military protecting all the rights she and her children enjoy. He himself enjoys his right to bear arms and serve his country. All of these rights and countless more are given, promoted, and upheld by the system established by a document that is over 200 years old. This demonstrates the Constitution’s ability to remain a living document. The Constitution is the invisible force woven into every aspect of our lives. It creates an artful balance of power between the people and its governing body. It is the inspiration for all democracy, and has shaped an entire spirit of living. It has given U.S. citizens a gift that can never be taken away from them, because the very institution that creates it protects those rights. The U.S. Constitution provides us with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, three things not only relevant, but indispensable to every citizen of our great nation.

What would you say to our Founding Fathers?

JT Roulier Dear Founding Fathers, I wonder if you had any idea about how much of an impact you’ve had not only on generations of Americans, but the world, too? On the day of July 4, 1776, when you signed the Declaration of Independence, you wrote, “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These words inspired the colonists to fight for their dream of freedom and independence, and gave them the courage to stand up for what they believed in. Even today, your dream of freedom still inspires brave Americans to fight for those same freedoms. “We the People” are the beginning words of our Constitution signed in Philadelphia, Sept. 17, 1787. With just those simple words, you told the world that government could be ruled by the people, not by one person such as a king or a queen. No one thought that this type of government would last, but you have proved them wrong. No other country’s constitution has been in effect as long as ours. That’s pretty amazing when you think of how young our country is compared to others. You wrote the Constitution as an outline for how our government should work. You didn’t want power to be in the hands of only a small group of people. So you set up a system of checks and balances to make sure that no branch of government would have too much power and take over. In 1791, you added 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights. These 10 amendments are to further protect our personal rights. It is pretty obvious that you didn’t want a government that had too much control over the people. I wonder what you would think of our country now? Would you be pleased? Do you think that the sacrifices and lives lost to fight for our freedoms back then and now were worth it? I believe so. Even though our country isn’t perfect, we still have more rights and freedoms than almost any other country. I thank you for your examples of courage and sacrifice that continue to live on through brave Americans today.

   
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