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VFW District 15 makes history

  • Madilyn Gawrych-Turner made history for VFW District 15. The Jonesboro Elementary student is the first to make it to the national level in the history of the Patriot Pen or Voice of Democracy annual contest. The national judging will take place in Washington, D.C. this weekend.

    Madilyn Gawrych-Turner made history for VFW District 15. The Jonesboro Elementary student is the first to make it to the national level in the history of the Patriot Pen or Voice of Democracy annual contest. The national judging will take place in Washington, D.C. this weekend.
    Photo by Holly Kee

 
Posted on 2/17/2017, 3:40 AM

The trip to Springfield for the state finals was only a stop on the journey for Madilyn Gawrych-Turner.

Turner, a student at Jonesboro Elementary School, was named as the Patriot Pen winner for District 15 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The VFW enacted the Patriot's Pen youth essay competition in 1995 as a way to encourage young minds to examine America's history, along with their own experiences in modern American society.  It is held in conjunction with the Voice of Democracy competition, an audio-essay program that provides students in grades four to 12 from across the country an opportunity to express themselves in a democratic and patriot-themed recorded essay.

District Commander John Metzger said Gawrych-Turner's win is the first time any competitor from his district has made it to the national level.

"There were over 7,000 entries and she got first," said Metzger.  "I expect her to place on the national level."

Barb Wilson, the assistant adjutant, also was thrilled with Gawrych-Turner's performance.

"We all wish her well at nationals from the state of Illinois," Wilson said.

The contest is open to students in grades six to eight. This year's theme was "The America I Believe In."

The Patriot's Pen awards nearly $54,000 nationally. Gawrych-Turner pocketed $1,000 for her first-place prize at the state level.

Metzger, commander of Post 2671, said his Post has been working with area schools for a number of years.

"I always tell the kids this is part of the VFW's way to get them involved and to think about what role they will play in promoting patriotism and citizenship," he said.  "Plus, it's a way to get scholarships and prize money."