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VFW post recognizes many at ceremony
Honorees include teacher, students, fire department
Richard Knight presents an award to Kathy Vail, a North Forsyth High teacher, during the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 annual awards banquet. - photo by Alyssa LaRenzie


Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 opened its doors to the community Wednesday night, welcoming about 150 people for an annual awards banquet.

District 2 Commander Richard Knight said the members look forward to February because that’s when the VFW gets to share its appreciation.

“That’s one time we can see all the folks in the community, especially the young folks, that have really worked hard to achieve their goals,” Knight said. “It’s great to have them here to honor them.”

He presented the award for the post, district and state representative of the National Citizenship Education Teachers Award.

Kathy Vail, an American government teacher at North Forsyth High School, said she was grateful to have been nominated.

“My husband was in the Air Force in the early 1970s,” Vail said. “I’m very appreciative of veterans and all that you’ve done for us. It’s such an honor.”

After 39 years of teaching, Vail said this year will be her last.

As the winner of the secondary school teacher at the state level, she’ll move on to represent Georgia in the national contest.

The post in Cumming also recognized some outstanding students for their work in the Patriot’s Pen essay contest and the Voice of Democracy oratorical contest.

Carrie McPherson took first in the essay contest, which asked middle school students to answer the question “Are You Proud of Your Country?”

West Forsyth High School swept the top three awards at the post in the Voice of Democracy contest.

Second-place winner Taylor Patskanick, a junior, said she answered “Is there pride in serving our military?”

“I talked about the honor that comes along with serving,” Patskanick said, adding that she learned how valuable the experience can be by talking with veterans.

First place went to Gabrielle Stuermer, who also took top honors at the district level.

The post also recognized 11 Boy Scouts from Troop 39, which it hosts, who attained the lifelong top rank of Eagle Scout.

Etowah District Director Daniel Victorio said Scouting holds a special place in Forsyth County, where about 35 percent of boys in first through fifth grades participate.

In 2011, a record 37 Scouts reached the rank of Eagle, Victorio said.

The post rounded out the night with its recognition of public safety personnel, selecting a top Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy and firefighter.

Deputy Martin Nielsen was named law enforcement officer of the year for his efforts in catching a felony suspect.

The Forsyth County Fire Department as a whole received this year’s award for its outstanding teamwork, post member John Kepler said.

“Nowhere in the state of Georgia do people not know about the Forsyth County Fire Department,” Kepler said.

Chief Danny Bowman, who accepted the award, said the check would be donated to the Georgia Burn Foundation.