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For Shaun Redden, a senior at Hohenfels High School, it was lessons learned growing up in Army communities that inspired the theme for his winning essay on the subject: “My Role in Honoring America’s Veterans.”

Redden, who was selected earlier this week as the winner of the Veterans of Foreign Wars-Europe Voice of Democracy contest, will be awarded $1,500 in scholarship money and will go on to compete for $30,000 at the national VFW competition in March.

“I basically talked about how the Army values were incorporated into my life and helped me in honoring veterans,” said Redden, who competed against 198 other high school students stationed at military installations in Europe.

Meanwhile, Natasha Anderson won the VFW Europe’s Patriot’s Pens Youth Essay contest for middle schoolers. Anderson, an eighth-grader at Boeblingen Elementary and Middle School in Stuttgart, will receive a $1,000 savings bond and go on to compete for a $10,000 bond that goes to the national winner.

Each year, the VFW awards more than $3 million in scholarship funds through its essay contests for high school and middle school students.

Anderson said she spent a couple of weeks thinking about what to say in her essay, which explored the subject: “Why am I an American Patriot?”

“Without patriotism there would be no America. America would just then be a country where people live and not be together and strong,” said the 13-year-old, who competed against 480 middle schoolers in Europe.

Anderson said the essay provided an opportunity to think about the American traditions she holds dear.

“A patriot is someone who respects America’s democratic traditions,” Anderson said. “I love my country and its natural beauty.”

As for Redden, the victory means a busy travel schedule in the coming months.

In March, Redden will travel to Washington to represent the VFW Europe in the national competition held during the National Legislative Conference. The Voice of Democracy winner will be announced during the event. Redden also will represent the Department of Europe at the annual Freedom Foundations Citizenship Conference at Valley Forge, Pa.

Redden, who has been accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said growing up in a military family and living in Army communities has helped foster a sense of respect for veterans and service.

“It was a personalized essay,” said Redden, 17. “I haven’t known any other life than the military life.”

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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