Jeanette Henry was invited to be the Chairman of the Americanism Program as part of the Iowa Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary. She wrote the program for Dru Novak, the VFW State President, in which Iowa children participated in for the VFW's essay writing contest. When Novak asked Henry to chair the program, Henry said that it would be her honor to do so. Little did Henry know that Novak would pass away in March before completing her year of service in the Auxiliary. Novak's replacement, Rachel Bru continued on with the programs already set in place.

Each year the Department Auxiliary President and the Americanism Chairman choose the topics for the essays for each elementary grade and announce them in the Department Program book. The Auxiliaries in each of the ten Iowa Districts have the opportunity to enter essays for judging at each level. The judging begins at the local level, then moves up to the District competition and finally the Department Auxiliary Americanism competition. This program is designed for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade elementary children.

Our Department Veteran of Foreign Wars Auxiliary President chose the titles. The topics for each grade were as follows:

3rd Grade - (This topic is always the same) I Love America Because

4th Grade - I am Grateful for Veterans Because

5th Grade - I am Proud to be an American Because

Each of the Auxiliaries chooses their top essays that will move on to compete at the District level. The essays are then entered by December 1 and the District Chairmen judges those essays, choosing the winners at for this level before January 1. The remaining winners are then sent on to the Department competition. As the Department Americanism Chairman, Jeanette Henry will announce the top two winners in each grade at the Midwinter Conference which was postponed to February 23-24 in Des Moines.

The first-place winners in each of the three grades will receive a certificate and $50. Second-place winners will receive a certificate and $25.

The local Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary Smith-Geater 8884 Post in Vinton has held this competition for 12 years. This year they had entries from two Elementary Schools in the Vinton-Shellsburg School District. (These small towns support our Veterans all year!) Out of these two schools, there were 114 entries from the 3rd grade, 117 4th grade entries and 63 5th graders entered for a total of 294 entries!

17 teachers in the district participated by turning the contest into a classroom project. They give the children the title of the essays, explain the rules and the students either handwrite or type their essay on the computer. Local judges then read through the 294 essays and chose the winning essays.

Our local district, District 2 had one winner. A 3rd grader, whose essay went on to win the Department competition. His teacher was Mrs. Patterson. His essay reads:"I love America because we are free. If it wasn't for our veterans we would not be free. Since you fought for our freedom I am able to do things I enjoy like playing football and playing baseball and spending time with my family. In the future I will work hard and not forget that you gave us freedom. Thank you very much."

-Zachary Kuhn, 3rd Grade

Kuhn competed against a total of eight of the ten possible Iowa Districts. Henry said, "We are proud of Zachary and all the students, teachers and staff that supported Auxiliary 8884." She went on to explain that in some of the other Districts, they Auxiliaries have difficulty getting into the larger districts because of the competition from other programs.

Each year one of our Auxiliary 8884 members and her husband always participated in our award days at the schools. She continues the tradition following the passing of her husband and makes a donation toward the local awards. All 294 of the students received a copy of their essay and a certificate from the Auxiliary laminated together. The top ten essays in each grade also received an engraved medal with their name, the teacher's name, and the name of the Auxiliary on the back. The engraving is provided free of charge by the company, "Just Awards." The medal has a red, white and blue ribbon attached. Students placing first in Districts will also receive a second medal and certificate.

In the Spring, the schools will hold an assembly to present the awards. The 1st-place winners will have their parents in attendance that day. The top ten winners in each grade will receive their medals and certificates at an assembly. The remaining essays will be presented to the students by their teacher in the classrooms. For their participation, teachers are given a small token of appreciation by the Auxiliary.

Congratulations Zachary!


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