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
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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
[By PHIL BERTONI, VFW Post 777