At the turn of the 20th century, the founders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars created an organization that would honor and serve veterans and perpetuate the values and ideals for which those veterans had served. Although men of vision, it is doubtful they could imagine the millions of Americans impacted today by the VFW’s youth, scholarship and recognition programs. Every year, tens of thousands of students nationwide participate in the Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition and the Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest, garnering more than $3 million in scholarships, awards, and incentives.
Patriot’s Pen gives 6th, 7th and 8th grade students the opportunity to express their opinion on a patriotic theme and improve their writing skills, while they compete for awards and prizes. Cumulatively, the awards provided from all levels of the competition total $1.2 million each year. Each Department's (state) first-place winner competes for $55,000 in award money at the national level with the first-place national winner receiving $5,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. Each state winner will receive at least $500 at the national level.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) started the Voice of Democracy Scholarship Competition in 1947. The Veterans of Foreign Wars became a national sponsor in the late 1950s and assumed sole responsibility for the program in 1961. Many notables have participated in the Voice of Democracy including journalist Charles Kuralt, Miss America Anita Bryant and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Voice of Democracy competition provides high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors the opportunity to write and record an audio essay on a patriotic theme, competing for more than $2.1 million in college scholarships and incentives. Each first place Department (state) winner is brought to Washington, D.C. in February to enjoy our nation’s capital and compete for $171,000 in national college scholarships— first place receiving $35,000. Each state winner will receive at least $1,000 at the national level.
The VFW launched the Smart/Maher National Citizenship Education Teacher Award in 1999 to recognize certified teachers for promoting citizenship education. Three teachers, one from each level (K-5, 6-8, and 9-12) are selected as department winners. Each department award winner and their school will receive a National Citation.