Jamestown High School senior wins local VOD competition

Will Nelson placed first in Jamestown and his oral entry will compete at the district level.

Will Nelson 22.jpg
Will Nelson, a senior at Jamestown High School, is awarded scholarships totaling $500 from the VFW Auxiliary Post 760 and VFW Post 760 in Jamestown. Presenting the scholarship checks was Mary Klundt, patriotic instructor and trustee of the Auxiliary. Nelson competed in the Voice of Democracy Oral Competition to win the local scholarships.
Kathy Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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Will Nelson, a senior at Jamestown High School, recently earned honors in the Voice of Democracy Oral Competition.

In the local competition, Nelson was awarded first place by the VFW Auxiliary Post 760 and first place from VFW Post 760, both in Jamestown, for "Why is the Veteran Important?"

Nelson received a $200 scholarship from the VFW Auxiliary and a $300 scholarship from the VFW Post, said Mary Klundt, patriotic instructor and trustee for the Auxiliary.

Adam Gehlhar, JHS principal, said as a school leader and veteran, "it's quite an honor" for Nelson to be recognized.

"I think it's ... important that these opportunities exist and students like Will are recognized for their effort to promote veterans' contributions ...," Gehlhar said. "We wish him luck at the next levels (of competition)."


As the local winner, Nelson's entry was submitted to the district contest. If it places there, the top three entries in the state will compete in the national competition.

Here is the written version of Nelson's award-winning oral entry:

"Why is the Veteran Important?"
By Will Nelson, Jamestown

"Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw - The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die - We shall not sleep." John McCrae ends his poem "In Flanders Fields" with this stanza. It is a message from the fallen to future generations of veterans: the torch is ours and we must hold it high. The veteran knows the value of this torch. They answered one of the highest callings for a citizen and they understand the contours and responsibilities of that citizenship. It's hard to categorize the impact of the veteran, but they play 3 major roles. First, as the wise sage with perspective. Second, as the experienced first responder and protectionary. Third and most-importantly, as the promoter and protector of our civic values.

The Veteran could have joined the military for a variety of reasons, but the most important fact is that they joined. They left their home, moved far across the country or maybe the world. They were placed in units and battalions filled with people of different creeds, religions, backgrounds, and values. The veteran had to learn how to adapt to this new military regimen and this group of diverse people. They might have been involved in a fire-fight, an operation or been witness to the scourges of war. They themselves might have been injured, whether psychologically or physically. All of these experiences shape the veteran. They provide perspective and wisdom. Upon their return home, the veteran must adapt again. They must reframe their service as one in the community, rather than on the battlefield. The experiences, values, and knowledge that veterans accumulated during their service become a repository of knowledge for their community. They are voice of credibility and respect. The veteran is a wise sage, someone who is listened to when they speak.

The aforementioned experiences also provided them with valuable training. They know how to respond when situations arise. Thus, the veteran plays a second role: that of the experienced first responder and protectionary. The veteran knows how to help a community sandbag for flooding, how to help evacuate during crisis, and how to respond to something like an active shooter. Many veterans become police officers, security guards, medical first responders, or they fulfill other emergency roles. They use these roles to protect and strengthen their communities. Their service showed them the importance of these roles, whether in a time of war or in a natural disaster. They are the glue that holds a community together.

But, that glue is not solely one that holds physical infrastructure together. Veterans are the glue that helps strengthen our political and social values. This is their third and most-important role: that of the promoter and protector of our civic values. Veterans understand the high cost paid to maintain our civil liberties. They know that America cannot persevere without involved, connected, and engaged communities. So, whether it's volunteering at the soup kitchen, helping out at a house of worship, advocating for underserved communities, or even running for office; the veteran knows that they must be involved and they must encourage their community to be. The veteran also knows the importance of Americans' most sacred right: their right to vote. Regardless of the candidate, veterans encourage their neighbors to vote. Veterans may work the election, they may canvass for a candidate, or they themselves might be the candidate. Many governors, state legislators, and congresspeople served in the armed forces. So, the veteran understands this most crucial role. They know that this grand American experiment of democracy must be sustained and protected, for it can vanish before our eyes if it isn't.

The veteran carries a torch each day, whether as the wise sage, the experienced first responder, or as the promoter and protector of our civic values. Though the veteran may no longer be on active duty, their importance is just as great. Without the veteran, there is no one to bear this torch of freedom.

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