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New York Mills High School student Lauren Bach is pictured here at the State VFW Mid-Winter Grand Banquet in St. Paul in January. In the photo from left to right are: Stan Kowalski, State VFW Commander; Terri Fenn, State Ladies Auxiliary President; Lauren Bach, District 9 "Voice of Democracy" Essay Winner;­ Cindy Tews and Larry Rundle, Co-Chairs for the State "Voice of Democracy" Essay Competition.

Mills essay winner attends state 'Voice of Democracy' competition

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Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars sponsors the "Voice of Democracy" essay competition. This year, Post #3289 New York Mills is proud to announce that Lauren Bach, daughter of Gary and Laurie Bach, was not only our local winner, but also placed first in the District 9 competition. She represented District 9 in the state competition.

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Over 3,000 entries were presented in the state. The nine district winners each sent their essays to the mid-winter conference at the St. Paul Crown Hotel. Upon arriving, Lauren, along with her parents, were greeted at a reception, along with other winners and their families.

Each winner was presented with a beautiful red Voice of Democracy jacket. They were given time to meet the other contestants and mingle. At 6:30 all the contestants and parents were invited to have pictures taken and meet the line officers of the V.F.W. Then they returned to a room and were prepared for the line-up at the head table. At 7 a banquet was presented in their honor. The keynote speaker for the evening was Brigadier General Joe Kelly of the Minnesota National Guard. He gave a very impressive talk. Along with the speaker, the group was honored with Governor Pawlenty. He spoke on how valuable the veterans are to our country and how proud we are of their service. He congratulated the students there. This was followed by the presentation of awards.

The winner of the "Patriots Pen", Releigh Kibort, was invited to give her winning essay. The Patriots Pen is open to students in grades 6-8. Post #3289's student, EmaLeigh Roberts of New York Mills, was a second place winner in District 9. Then the Voice of Democracy winners were announced. The winner of the state was Kate Rexon from Bloomington, sponsored by Post 1296 and its Auxiliary. As stated by the program's Chair, "Even if you weren't placed first, you are all winners".

The Voice of Democracy Program was first organized by a group of newspapers. When they realized it had gotten so big, they asked the V.F.W. organization to take it over. The program is open to students in grades 9-12 in public, parochial and private schools, or to students in a home study program. Former state winners are not eligible to participate again; however ,non-winners may.

The program consists of a National Audio Essay Scholarship Competition, designed to give high school students the opportunity to voice their opinions on responsibility to our country and convey their thoughts via the broadcasting media to America. National awards total over $140,000. First place alone is $30,000. There are a total of 54 national awards, besides those offered locally and district wide.

A theme for next year's event will be announced soon. The Post #3289 and its Auxiliary would like to recognize Mr. Jay Sorenson for taking time to assist with the program.

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