BLHS junior’s speech wins contest
Local Veterans of Foreign Wars post also honors district teacher
Tia Oelschlaeger, junior at Basehor-Linwood High School was the local winner of this year's Veterans of Foreign Wars' Voice of Democracy audio competition. The theme was "How I Demonstrate My Freedom."
Al McComas, senior vice commander of Basehor VFW Post 11499 presented a plaque to Oelschlaeger at the VFW's monthly meeting in December. It will be permanently displayed at the high school. Her name as well as the names of future winners of the audio essay sponsored by the VFW will appear on the plaque.
She also won a $100 savings bond at the local level and her essay was forwarded to district where it was a second choice.
The Voice of Democracy audio essay contest was created in 1947. It provides more than $3 million in scholarships to high school students annually. More information about the contest is available at www.vfw.org or the local VFW Post 11499.
Michelle Ablard, fifth-grade teacher at Basehor Elementary School, also won the Teacher of the Year Award sponsored by the local VFW.
The award recognizes teachers who promote America's history and traditions. Ablard was nominated by fellow fifth-grade teacher, Rebecca Hill. Her award was also presented at the December VFW meeting with BES principal Teri Holmes and Superintendent Robert Albers present. She received $100 cash was also a second choice at the district level.
This is Oelschlaeger's winning speech:
Are you up for a challenge? Approximately 139,000 American soldiers in Iraq answered yes to that question. President Roosevelt said, "We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with high and resolute courage." Our men and women serving right now in Iraq have done just that. They have faced the challenge and continue to meet it daily. One of those is named Sgt. Hamilton. Let me tell you about him. He left his wife and 6-year-old daughter in Georgia to serve our country. He put his life on hold and volunteered to leave his home and his friends to make sure America, in all of her glory, is defended. He will relive the horrors he has seen there every time he closes his eyes, probably for the rest of his life. There is no promise that he will go home whole, there is no guarantee that he will ever go home again. But still, he is there, looking freedoms challenge in the eye.
"Attacks in Baghdad kill 13 U.S. soldiers in 3 days." -- Washington Post
"Deadly day for the U.S. in Iraq. Nine soldiers, one marine killed by roadside bomb." -- Fox News
"October deadly for G.I.s in Iraq. Death toll for October reaches 96." -- AOL News
On stateside, we read these headlines everyday. It may become commonplace to us. It doesn't to Sgt. Hamilton. You see, the men that answered with their lives when freedom called, they are Sgt. Hamilton's buddies, his comrades, his brothers. Another bombing, we don't flinch, another suicide attack, we complain about the president, another killing, we turn the channel, all the while there is a family somewhere wondering if this time it was their son that's not coming home. We become calloused to the job of protecting our freedom, taking for granted that someone else will always be there to do it. Our subconscious is lulled into a sense of unawareness until the knock comes and a chaplain and a soldier stands in our own doorway.
Whether it is enlisting in the military to fight for this great nation, or simply voting for a candidate who will continue to ensure the safety of our nation, there is always a way to meet freedom's challenge. No matter how tall or small, big or strong you are, the freedom granted us by this nation challenges us to stand up and accept the responsibility of freedom. We have a duty to our country to do our part. The challenge of freedom obligates us to answer its call.
During World War II, there were many heroes that fought. Some of those are men that live right here in my hometown and I am privileged to know who they are and what indescribable things they survived. Men like Gen. John L. Hines, Sgt. Alvin C. York and Gen. Omar N. Bradley, were highly recognized after the war, but to me, every single soldier that went to war in the name of America was, and still is a hero. Each and every single soldier that serves and protects us deserves the utmost respect and honor.
Our soldiers still meet freedom's challenge with the famous words that President John F. Kennedy spoke in 1961, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe in order to assure the survival of liberty." You better believe America is ready to answer Freedom's Challenge.
Our family friend, Sgt. Hamilton, is sending us an American flag that was flown Sept. 11, 2006, where he is stationed in Iraq. That marks the fifth year anniversary date of the 9/11 attacks. That is one challenge Americans stood up to accept. That flag stood proud in a land that was devastated by its own government. Here it will stand proud, saying to the whole world, "If you challenge America, be ready for her to answer." I am 16 years old. I can't enlist in the military. I can't go overseas to fight. There are some things that I can do, like showing my pride in America and supporting our troops. I anxiously await that flag. I will fly it high with pride.