Patriots have their voices heard in annual essay contest

Area students were recognized for their essays written for the Patriot's Pen and Voice of Democracy contests.

Voice of Democracy finalists include Reece Petersen, left, Abigail Ervasti, Megan Hamelau and Gabriel Kroll. Not pictured is David Dykhoff.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
We are part of The Trust Project.

WADENA — Veterans gathered and filled the Wadena VFW on Veterans Day for a free supper in honor of veterans and their families.
After a great meal, the crowd hung out for a program where special readings brought back many memories for veterans in attendance. Youth from the area also attended and were recognized for either their participation in the Patriot's Pen or Voice of Democracy contest.

The Patriot's Pen program is a patriotic essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Auxiliary. Nationally, over 132,000 entries are submitted for this essay contest which has a top national prize of $5,000.

Locally, students in grades seventh and eighth in Wadena-Deer Creek, Verndale, Staples-Motley, Bertha-Hewitt, and Sebeka schools were encouraged to submit essays. This year, approximately 95 students initially wrote essays from which the school winners were chosen.

Ruth Clark.JPG
Ruth Clark shares about the meaning of the "Missing Man Table" at the Veterans Day event Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

First, second, and third place prizes were awarded at each school that had students who submitted essays. Entries were judged anonymously on how well the writer developed this year’s theme which is “My Pledge to Our Veterans.” From top place winners at each school, three finalists were chosen for the local competition by judges Emily Clark, Jennifer Clark, and Nellie Wegscheid.

This year’s Patriot’s Pen finalists are Taylor Bosman and Austin McCoy of Verndale Schools, and Emma Weniger of Wadena-Deer Creek Schools.


Patriot's Pen finalists included Emma Weniger, left and Austin McCoy. Not pictured is Taylor Bosman.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Each finalist received a certificate along with a monetary prize of $30, $40 or $50 for third, second, and first place respectively.

This year’s third place winner is Austin McCoy; placing second is Taylor Bosman. Emma Weniger is this year’s Patriot’s Pen Essay contest winner. Emma’s essay will be forwarded to the District Patriot’s Pen competition.

Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy program is a national patriotic audio-essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Auxiliary. Each year, over 40,000 high school students enter the contest vying for the top national prize of $30,000. Over 2.1 million dollars are awarded annually to Voice of Democracy winners.

Locally, Elmer Goche Post 3922 invited students in grades nine through twelve in Wadena-Deer Creek, Verndale, Bertha-Hewitt, Sebeka, and Staples-Motley schools to submit essays for the Voice of Democracy scholarship contest.

Entrants wrote, and then recorded for judging, a 3-5-minute audio-essay on the theme “Why is the Veteran Important?” Entrants remained anonymous to the judges, and their audio-essays were judged on theme interpretation, theme development, and oral delivery.

First, second, and third place prizes are awarded at each school; with the first, second, and third places receiving a certificate and prizes of $150, $125, and $100 respectively.

This year there were a total of 46 entrants: 27 from Bertha-Hewitt, 10 from Staples-Motley, three from Verndale, one from Sebeka and five from Wadena-Deer Creek. The first place winner from each school was invited to the program. Those included:

  • Bertha-Hewitt Schools, David Dykhoff
  • Sebeka Schools, Reece Petersen
  • Staples-Motley Schools, Gabriel Kroll
  • Verndale Schools, Abigail Ervasti.
  • Wadena-Deer Creek Schools, Megan Hamelau

The overall winner was Abigail Ervasti, of Verndale Schools.Her audio-essay will be forwarded to the District for further competition and judging. She will also receive an additional prize of $250.


Wadena VFW Post 3922 commander Phil Thoennes speaks during the Veterans Day event with American Legion Post 171 commander Mike Ittner in the background.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
Veterans and their families were invited to a free meal at the Wadena VFW on Veterans Day 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

The Pioneer Journal hopes to share these winning essays in the coming weeks as they are made available.

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
What to read next
Events in the Wadena area.
The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center recently hosted a celebration of 30 years in their building and 32 years in operation.
The Jacket Fishing Team was originally created about four years ago, and since then, it's made an impact on many Perham students' lives.
Rural Detroit Lakes man part of an effort to bring 250 miles of trails to tri-state area.