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Mount Pulaski VFW Post 777 celebrates 45 years

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[May 01, 2014]  MOUNT PULASKI Scroggin-Gee Post 777 of Veterans of Foreign Wars celebrated its 45th anniversary with a well-attended dessert event Sunday afternoon in the VFW Hall on the south side of the square in Mount Pulaski. Special guest Madison Haley, a Mount Pulaski High School honor student, delivered her 2014 national VFW championship Voice of Democracy essay, "Why I'm Optimistic About Our Nation's Future."

With her essay, Ms. Haley won a $30,000 scholarship among over 40,000 entrants from all 50 states, including four VFW territories, being the first from Illinois District 10 to accomplish this feat and only the third from Illinois. Madison is the daughter of Jeff and Tricia Haley of Chestnut.

She used the metaphor of the resolute USS America in her award-winning essay: "She will always cut through murky waters and weather all storms. ... She was constructed from freedom and liberty and in over 200 years, she's never sunk."

The national VFW Voice of Democracy competition commenced in 1947, with high school student Charles Kuralt, later a CBS-TV journalist, being the first winner.

At the Post 777 anniversary celebration, one of the five remaining 1969 charter members, Richard "Dean" Toohey, was present with his wife, Lola, and was awarded a 45-year VFW pin by Roger Bates, post commander.

Also in attendance was Earl Jackson, former post commander, representing his son, David Jackson, an original charter member, who was not able to attend. Walt Pourchot, another past commander of the post, was also in attendance. Louise Voelker, longtime president and treasurer of the VFW Unit 777 Auxiliary, represented her husband, Vernon Voelker, a former post commander and longtime finance officer.

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Tom Stephens, former longtime post adjutant, was also in attendance. It is believed that he holds Mount Pulaski's longest continuous membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars: 68 years since 1946.

Visiting VFW officers in attendance were Matt Willis, VFW 10th District commander; Vince Long, VFW 10th District quartermaster and former state VFW commander; and John Richter, 10th District service officer and inspector.

Post 777 was named in honor of the town's two Vietnam War KIAs: Raymond Gee Jr. and Michael Scroggin, both Mount Pulaski High School graduates in the mid-'60s.

Cake and refreshments were served in observance of the Post 777 anniversary.

[By PHIL BERTONI, VFW Post 777 quartermaster]

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