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Veterans Honor Next Generation of Heroes

Students awarded for essay contest participation

American pride connected two generations on Monday, March 12, as The William M. Gouse Jr. Post 3211 honored nine students from the Hicksville School District with Voice of Democracy Awards.

The Hicksville School District, specifically the social studies department, (Dr. Rose Borda is the chair) held an essay contest for district students. The Patriots Pen theme was, “Are You Proud of Your Country?” and The Voice of Democracy theme was, “Is There Pride In Serving in Our Military?”

The teachers of Hicksville High School, Hicksville Middle School and Hicksville’s Holy Trinity High School judged the essays. They were then read and judged by members of the William Gouse Post 3211.

Presiding over the event was Master of Ceremonies PPC Conrad Steers, a Vietnam War Purple Heart recipient. PPC Mike Montelione led the Pledge of Allegiance and a Commander William Walden provided a warm and friendly welcome speech, which was received with many laughs. 

President of the Ladies Auxilliary Cherie Steers gave a few words of congratulations to the students, and PPC Conrad Steers then took the podium to introduce the distinguished guests. In attendance were James Stefanich, Joseph G. Pinto, Anthony D. Macagone and Rose Marie Walker. Each guest spoke a few words of congratulations to the students. Rose Marie Walker read a letter from Senator Chuck Schumer to the students, who each received a copy for their own. Legislator Walker also gave a moving speech about Corporal Kevin Kolm, who lost his life in Fallujah, Iraq after only serving one month of service at the age of 23. A graduate of Hicksville High School and a resident of Hicksville all of his life, Walker told the students, “Kevin was not much older than you are now when he enlisted in the Marines.”

Kolm was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor in combat.

According to leatherneck.com, Corporal Kolm enjoyed playing in local youth sports leagues with his friends and played in the Hicksville PAL lacrosse program. Just as he was on the battlefield in Iraq, his peers came to know knew Corporal Kolm as a team player and good friend.

The winners of the Patriots Pen Awards were three students from Hicksville Middle School. Third Place went to Kinza Hameed; Adjutant Richard Treacy presented her award. Second Place went to Naveed Shah, whose award was presented by PPC Jeff Frey. First Place went to Jonathan Ricca, who read his essay to all those in attendance. Jonathan wrote an uplifting essay about what it meant to him to be an American. PPC Howard Liebman presented his award.

Students from Holy Trinity High School were honored for their participation in the essay contest as well. Third Place went to Meghan Kingsley; Meghan was home with a high fever, and her parents were in attendance to receive her award, which was presented by John Rezin of the post. Second Place went to Claudia Lent, which was presented by Joe Ingino. First Place went to Dianne McShane, and PPC Bob Obermleyer presented her award. Dianne read her essay to the audience, a rousing piece which quoted the song by Lee Green, “I’m Proud To Be An American.”

The Voice of Democracy Tape and Essay Awards were reserved for the Hicksville High School students. Each student had written an essay, and the finalists were asked to have their essays recorded on tape for the Post to review. Third Place went to Brianna Servidio, who had written a piece about Corporal Kevin Kolm, for which Triangle Park was renamed. Sr. Vice Commander Bill Torres presented her award. Second Place went to Ramneek Kaur, which was presented by Jr. Vice Commander Robert Ciappone. First Place went to Joseph Henn, who presented his essay to the audience about the anonymous student who made his family proud by enlisting in the armed forces, and how much courage he displayed by doing something that perhaps might have made his family upset, but instead, made them incredibly proud. Commander William Walden presented his award.

The students were then presented with a Certificate of Merit signed by Town Supervisor John Venditto, a Certificate of Recognition from Nassau County Legislator Rose Marie Walker, a letter from Senator Schumer, a Certificate of Recognition signed by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, a “Voice of Democracy Certificate of Merit” from the Ladies Auxilliary, as well as a small monetary gift from the Auxilliary, the Patriot’s Pen Medal and the Voice of Democracy Pin.

After the ceremony, Post 3211 served a meal of several hot dishes as well as a large hero for the students and their families. The pride on each of the parents’ faces was something that would not soon be forgotten; pride in America still exists, and our future is in good hands.