Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10825 in Statesboro recently honored middle and high school students from Bulloch County Schools who competed in their annual Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essay contests. Students are recognized at their schools if they place in either their school-level or the VFW Post-level of the competition from entries throughout the county.

For middle school students, this year’s Patriot’s Pen theme was, “How can I be a good American?” Students wrote a 300 to 400-word essay for the competition. Of all of the school-level winners, the VFW also reviewed the essays for possible selections as a VFW Post-Level winner.  Lauryn Bazemore of William James Middle School, was her school’s first-place winner, and she won the Silver Award for second-place in the Post-Level of the competition. Lillian Palmer of Langston Chapel Middle School was her school’s first-place winner, and she also won the Bronze Award for third-place in the Post-Level.

William James Middle School Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Winners Winners

Pictured (L-R): VFW Post 10825 members Dr. Gene Murkison and Eugene Smith and school-level winners Lauryn Bazemore (First-place), Jackson Lewis (Second-place), Lizzie Beachum (Third-place), and Alana Little (Fourth-place). Credit: BOE

Langston Chapel Middle School Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Winners

Pictured (L-R): LCMS Principal Kelia Francis, Dr. Gene Murkison of VFW Post 10825, school-level winners Jaryn Skinner (Second- place), Kyli Brown (Third- place), Lillian Palmer (First- place), Nyana Carnes (Fourth- place), and VFW members Eugene Smith and Alexander Brown. Credit: BOE

For high school students, this year’s Voice of Democracy theme was “America: Where Do We Go from Here?” Participants wrote both an essay and made a three to five-minute recording of their essay. Tina Pilter, of Statesboro High School, was selected as the Gold First-Place VFW Post winner and received a $300 cash prize.

Statesboro High School Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Winners

Pictured (L-R): Back Row – SHS Principal Keith Wright, VFW members Alexander Brown and Eugene Smith, SHS English Teacher Jen Calhoun, and Dr. Gene Murkison of the VFW; Front Row – Tina Pilter, First-place; Erin Shen, Second-place; and Julia Basquin, Third-place. Credit: BOE


The Voice of Democracy competition has been the VFW’s premier national scholarship program since 1947.  Each Year over 60,000 high school students compete nationwide for more than $2 million in scholarships and incentives.  

For both competitions, school-level winners were selected by faculty. The competitions were coordinated by VFW Project Officer Dr. Gene Murkison, VFW Post Commander Mike Cox and Charesse Clark, an instructional coach for the school district.

Southeast Bulloch Middle School Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Winners

Patriot’s Pen
Pictured (L-R) Back Row: SEBMS Principal Brad Boykin, and school-level winners Leven Rutt, 3rd place; Carli Cowan, first-place; Ariel Brunt, second place; and Ella Faith Rountree; Front Row: VFW Post 10825 members Eugene Smith, Dr. Gene Murkison, and Alexander Brown Credit: BOE

Portal Middle High School Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Winners

Patriot’s Pen
Pictured (L-R): Back Row – VFW Member Dr. Gene Murkison, and high school winners Noah Barnes, first-place; Jenna Goodson, second-place; and Shay Cason, third-place, and VFW members Eugene Smith and James Williams; Front Row – Middle school winners Cannon Thompson, first-place; Jenna Mallard, second-place; and third-place Zane Lanier and Kaylin Warren. Credit: BOE

Southeast Bulloch High School Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen Winners

Patriot’s Pen
Pictured (L-R): VFW Post 10825 members Alexander Brown and Dr. Gene Murkison, Dylan Smith, VFW Member Eugene Smith, Tyson Harnage, and Terry Turner Credit: BOE