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Contest gives Greencastle teen appreciation for vets

January 30, 2008|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Since receiving the assignment to write a speech for the Greencastle VFW Post 6319 Voice of Democracy speech contest in November, Hannah Izer said she has become more appreciative of what men and women have sacrificed for the United States.

Izer, a senior at Greencastle-Antrim High School, placed third in the local contest, during which speeches were judged by members of VFW Post 6319. The speeches had to be three to five minutes in length and were taped.

Izer, 17, came in first place at the VFW District 21 contest on Dec. 15 in Mount Wolf, Pa., which included competitors from Franklin, Adams and York counties. She went on to the state contest in Lancaster, Pa., where she was one of 19 runners-up last weekend. Five students took the top spots in the state contest.

The theme was "My Role in Honoring America's Veterans."

"I started out not knowing anything (and) not being appreciative of what (soldiers) do," Izer said. "Now I'm overwhelmed with gladness and thanks that they do that, that they gave up everything.

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"It was totally a blast and totally worth it," Izer, of Greencastle, said of going to the state contest Saturday at the Lancaster Host Conference Center.

As a runner-up, Izer received $1,000 and a trophy.

The Voice of Democracy scholarship program was created in 1947. It is an audio-essay contest for high school students in grades nine to 12 that provides more than $3 million annually in scholarships, according to the VFW's national Web site.

Izer was in Lancaster on Friday and Saturday, where she met the 23 other contestants, last year's national winner, war veterans, got a tour of Wilbur's Chocolate Factory in Lititz, Pa., and learned to make pretzels.

"I think that the greatest thing I gained was knowledge of who the veterans are, and just my patriotism has risen so greatly," Izer said. "I really care now, and before I was really indifferent. Now I understand what they've done and the sacrifice that they've made, and I can appreciate it to a greater capacity."

In front of a crowd of 600 people during the awards banquet, Izer had to go on stage and introduce herself.

"I had to stand up and tell them who I was, where I was from and what I wanted to do with my life," Izer said. "It was scary."

"When they announced the winners, that was really nerve-wracking," said Izer, whose parents, DeWayne and Teresa Izer, also attended the banquet.

Izer's inspiration for the speech contest came from her research and from two relatives who served in the military. Her great-grandfather served in World War II and her mother's father served in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"When I started, I had no inspiration and then I realized how many people I knew who had sacrificed for our freedoms, and that's humbling," she said.

Izer said one of the members of the Greencastle VFW said that having three students from the area place in the district competition was like the Super Bowl for them.

In the local competition, Diana Stottlemyer, 17, placed first, Noel Fridgen, 18, placed second and Izer placed third. All the speeches were then submitted to the district competition, where Izer placed first, Stottlemyer came in second and Fridgen came in third.

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