HomeMantua NewsVFW honors those who've made an impact in Mantua

VFW honors those who’ve made an impact in Mantua

Students and a band were honored for their contributions and submissions to the VFW.

Mantua VFW Post 7679 honored students and other people within the township at its annual awards dinner on April 13.

Every year, the Mantua VFW hosts the awards to honor exemplary firefighters, police officers, EMTs, educators and citizens. The awards also include the student winners of the Patroit’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests.

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Tatum Gawrysiak, an eighth-grader from Clearview Regional Middle School, and Rachel Sampson, a senior at Kingsway Regional High School, won the Patroit’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contests, respectively.

“None of the essays were the same, which was great,” said Mantua Auxiliary President Ernie Martino. “All of these kids have a different sense of what’s going on.”

Martino added the essays are all judged anonymously, and students are asked to not include their name or affiliation in the submissions.

For the Gawrysiak’s essay, the topic this year was “Why I Honor the American Flag,” to which she mentioned the people who fought and died for her freedom, among other reasons.

“When I found out I was first place, I was really surprised because I didn’t think I was going to win,” said Gawrysiak. “I only did it because my social studies teacher told me that it was for extra credit, and then he ended up submitting it anyways.”

She added while composing her submission took some time, she was proud of herself over what she could accomplish and hopes to compete again in high school. Her submission did not win the national award.

Sampson said she was thrilled to know how much of an impact her essay made in Mantua because she’s “kind of the enemy.” Her topic was “Why my vote matters.”

“It’s universal, so I don’t think it matters where you go to school or whatever, as long as you’re American, you feel the same way,” said Sampson.

Her essay read in part “the 26th Amendment was ratified to make [the voting age] 18 and they felt if you were dying for a cause, you have a say about the cause. Voting gives you a voice about something bigger than yourself.”

Sampson’s submission also did not win the national award.

The VFW also honored David Armor and his band DNR as the citizens of the year. Armor’s band travels to various veterans’ home and hospitals in the tri-state area to play music for the residents.

Armor said they started in 2013 at a Philadelphia hospital and played during the evenings for the behavioral health patients, then quickly expanded. Recently, they visited a Richmond, Va., hospital to play.

“I knew from visiting the hospital in Philadelphia for hearing aids and other medical issues, I got to meet the veterans there that were in a lot worse shape than I was,” said Armor who is a Vietnam Marine veteran. “I appreciated that fact and it started me thinking of coming down there and entertaining them.”

He added their music helps the veterans “stay grounded and less institutionalized for even an hour and a half” to listen to their songs and share memories with them.

Other honorees include:

  • EMT of the Year Rachel Tucker from the Gloucester County EMS.
  • Firefighter of the Year Lt. Brian Thompson of the Mantua Fire Department.
  • Police officer of the year Ptl. Jason Lipsett of the Mantua Police Department.
  • Police explorer of the year Stephen Small from the Mantua Police Department.
  • Mantua School District’s employee of the year was Dianne Keen.
  • Clearview Regional Middle School’s employee of the year was Gerald DeLoach.
  • Clearview Regional High School’s employee of the year was Nickolas Noone.
  • Patroit’s Pen runners-up were CRMS eight-graders Ava Gaiser and Sophia Leone.
  • Voice of Democracy runners-up were Emily McHenry, senior at CRHS, and Torsten Cortright, freshman at Kingsway.

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