BY MELANIE BUCK –
The VFW Post #4451 presented their annual awards on Tuesday, November 15th for law enforcement, teachers, and winners of their Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy Contests.
Each year, explained Linda Johnson, VFW Commander, they recognize community members that perform a public service. First up, Ladurl Knight was awarded for his years of service to the VFW. Knight served as Commander for the local post from 1992-2014, giving countless hours of his time to veterans and their families.
For the 2016 Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Mena Police Department Officer Jessie Curry was given the award. Curry currently serves as the School Resource Officer for Mena Public Schools. A peer nominated Curry for the award and stated, “He has patience and is skilled as an extraordinary trainer.” Curry’s award at the local level will boost him to the district level. If he wins an award there, he will advance to the state level.
Teacher of the year was awarded to one teacher from each of the county’s three public school districts. “They do a lot for our community by educating our children,” said Johnson. In the K-5 category, Shannon Miller of Louise Durham Elementary in Mena, won the award. Miller was described as, “a leader in the building with great citizenship.”
Leo Mabry of Acorn Middle School was awarded in the 6-8 grade category. Mabry said, “All I have ever tried to do was treat each student the same.” He serves as the academic coach for both Acorn and Oden campuses.
For the 9-12 grade category, Helen Buxton of Cossatot River High School received the award. Buxton works in the district’s special education department. “She spends endless hours with her students, even taking some to doctor appointments on her own time,” said her nominee.
The local VFW also sponsors Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests each year. The Patriot’s Pen program “encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.” This year’s theme was ‘The America I Believe In.’
Local winners of Patriot’s Pen were: Shylee Head, Mena Middle School, 1st Place, and winner of $300. Corryn Holland, Acorn Middle School, 2nd Place, winner of $200. Samuel Cross, Mena Middle School, 3rd Place, $100.
Voice of Democracy contests began in 1947. The audio-essay program “provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay.” This year’s theme is My Responsibility to America.
Local winners of Voice of Democracy were: Makenna Goss, Acorn High School, 1st place, and winner of $500. Sophie Jackson, Acorn High School, 2nd Place, winner of $400. Braden Purvis, Mena High School, 3rd Place, winner of $300.
Winners of both contests will move on to the district level. State and national levels are possibilities as well. Eddie Cross, member of VFW who heads up the program, said, “Thank you for what you’ve done and what you’re going to do in the future.” Cross also said he sent nine entries into the district Patriot’s Pen competition and hopes that a local child wins.
Ladurl Knight said this is by far the most popular year of their contest so far. “We usually only receive around 25 entries and this year we received over 200. We want to thank the teachers that helped to share the program with their students.”