Voice of Democracy 2023-2024
VFW National Headquarters announces the Voice of Democracy 2023-2024 Theme "What are the greatest attributes of our Democracy?"
Student Entry Deadline: October 31, 2023
Patriotic Audio Essay Competition Grand Prize: $35,000 Award
Voice of Democracy 2022-2023
Patriotic Audio Essay Competition Post Winner
"Why Is The Veteran Important?”
Ryen L Padilla
Whether it’s at the famous World War II memorial in Washington D.C., at the coney island downtown, or at the local grocery store, I always feel awkward whenever I’m around a veteran. I don’t meet a veteran very often, but when the moment arrives, I really never know what to do with myself. Should I go talk to them? Should I walk away? I should probably say thanks, I think to myself. But instead, I lower my head, I shuffle past the vet, and try to avoid eye contact. I feel guilty for ignoring them, and the voice in my head tells me to turn around. Just tell them thanks! I say to myself, but I say nothing and keep walking away. It pains me to think that I tried to avoid someone who has sacrificed so much without having any expectation of being rewarded. I just ignored a hero. Later, I ask myself why I can’t share my appreciation for what vets have done for our nation. It’s really not that hard to do. Why can’t I just say a simple "thank you so much for your service?”
My answer may sound a bit ridiculous, and it probably won’t make any sense, but I can never say "thank you” because those two small, insignificant, little words would never be enough to express my gratitude for what our veterans have done for me, my family, and my country. It just doesn’t seem like enough to say the same thing to a veteran that you would say to someone that let you borrow a pencil in math class.
Veterans have witnessed many things that the average person cannot even begin to fathom. They have witnessed war and suffering, death and destruction, pain and Mourning. They have shouldered this burden so that we, the American people, did not have to endure it. We must also remember that veterans not only witnessed the negative consequences of war, but they also saw the growth that happened because of it. They saw the people of an entire country, no matter their age, race, or social status, unite against one common enemy. They saw the people of their country face adversity and triumph over it. They saw the power of our united patriotism, and the resilience of their proud, proud nation. Veterans have seen the ups and downs of our turbulent history. They are our American history, our country’s legacy, and they are the embodiment of the patriotic journey that our nation has been fighting for since the colonists first led the American Revolution. They represent the sacrifices of our fallen comrades. They are a way to remember, a way to remind the American people to be grateful that they live in a country that is of its own free will, that they live in a country where men and women are willing to risk their lives, their dreams, and their futures to fight for our right to enjoy basic freedoms and privileges. They represent the best of America. They are people who believe in our country. That is why the veteran is important.
Earlier, I mentioned that I don't see a veteran very often, but that's not really the case because they are around us every single day. Today, there are around 19 million veterans in the United States. 19 million soldiers. 19 million of our fathers, our grandfathers, our mothers, grandmothers, brothers, and sisters. 19 million of our friends and our neighbors. 19 million Americans believed enough in our nation’s people. 19 million people believed in our nation’s democracy so much so that they were willing to give up everything just to preserve it. They are part of every day that we live and breathe air that tastes of freedom and of liberty. And even though many veterans will not outwardly profess that they are heroes, they are indeed our silent heroes. Our humble heroes. That is why the veteran is important.
So, the next time that I meet a veteran at my local Walmart or at my small-town diner, I will show my appreciation. I won’t shy away. Just a simple thank you and maybe, just maybe, my expression of gratitude will brighten that veteran’s day. And to all of the veterans who are listening to me now, thank you. Thank you for all that you have sacrificed and for all that you have endured on the behalf of your country. Thank you for being such an important part of our nation’s history. Thank you so much for having the bravery and the courage to fight for our country, to fight for me. Thank you. You are important.
Past Post 6464 Winners
Voice of Democracy
2018-2019 Robert W. Bilyk Fowlerville High School "Why My Vote Matters”
2019-2020 Alex J. Wyrembelski Our Lady of the Lakes School "What Makes America Great”
2020-2021 Jon Tristan vonGunten Mason High School "Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?”
2021-2022 Abigail Thomas Fowlerville High School "America: Where Do We Go From Here?”
2022-2023 Ryen L. Padilla Linden High School "Why is The Veteran Important?”