Veterans of Foreign Wars recognizing achieving students, teachers in Carter County schools

Andy Wetzel, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Elizabethton (Post 2166), made a round trip throughout Carter County schools last week, recognizing students and teachers alike for the work they do in their communities.

Wetzel said this is the first time in a few years the VFW has hosted these competitions and awards.

“The VFW gives out the Teacher of the Year award for elementary, middle and high school teachers,” Wetzel said.

He said they also give out essay contest awards to certain students during the same drive.

Teachers recognized included Melissa Grant from Hampton Elementary, Dawn Taylor from Central Elementary and Brook Boone from Unaka High School.

The VFW hosted two essay contests: Patriot’s Pen and the Voice of Democracy. Keenburg Elementary eighth grader Erick Trejo won the local competition for the former, and Happy Valley High School’s Daleigh Stapp, Autumn Queen and Gabriel Bowman placed in the latter.

“There is no money on the local level,” Wetzel said. “The winners go to the regional and state competitions.”

He said bringing back these awards is part of how they serve the community that, in turn, supports them throughout the year.

“The VFW is there for the community,” he said. “If we are not supporting the community, the community will not support us.”

Having only recently taken leadership of the VFW, Wetzel said he was expecting gratitude from the winners, but said he was surprised at how emotional each trip was.

“Almost everyone on the list got emotional,” he said. “I was not expecting the reactions I got.”

He said the reactions proved they were doing something good for the community in recognizing these students and teachers.

The theme of both essay competitions was “What Makes America Great?” This sentiment, he said, reflects the VFW’s mission towards Elizabethton’s veterans.

“I have never been in a place more patriotic than Carter County,” Wetzel said. “These kids prove that point over and over.”

After not doing it for several years, Wetzel said he hopes to do it again next year.

For those interested in more information about the VFW and what it does, go to vfw.org.

The VFW Post 2166 is located at 2001 West Elk Ave.

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