WAVERLY — The Waverly Veterans of Foreign Wars organization presented three local high school seniors with scholarship awards Thursday, marking the 20th year of the Waverly VFW’s scholarship award program.
Waverly VFW member and one of the founding members of the scholarship award, Mike Hughes, was the speaker for the ceremony.
“I think it’s important rather than just mailing checks out for scholarships, this way we get to meet the recipient, and we also tell them the story of how this award came about,” Hughes said.
Hughes explained, how years ago, he visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and then later, began helping other Vietnam veterans from the area visit the Wall as well.
One of the Vietnam veterans that Hughes traveled to the memorial wall with stated that there are many local veterans who “maybe want to go to the wall but will never have the opportunity to get there,” and proposed bringing the Moving Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall to Waverly.
Hughes thought bringing the moving memorial would be impossible, especially financially. But when the VFW called a meeting to discuss the proposal, many from the local communities showed up to support and help with the project.
It took four years, but the Waverly VFW along with the support of the community, was able to bring the moving memorial wall to the Valley in 1998.
Afterwards, as the Waverly VFW went to pay the bills pertaining to keeping the memorial in town from places like Friedman Electric, they decided they did not want any money back.
“When everything was said and done, we had a surplus of $8,000. But when we brought the wall in, that was one thing we stipulated with everybody, that we weren’t going to make any money on this,” Hughes said. “Whatever money we had, we would make (the memorial) even more special.”
The $8,000 surplus left over from the memorial was then used to create three $500 scholarships for local high school seniors.
The scholarship fund is now funded through the VFW’s annual golf tournament, where “100 percent of the proceeds from the golf tournament” go to the scholarship fund.
Sayre Area High School seniors Claire Shaffer and Dominic Petrocco and Waverly High School senior Michael Zimmer were awarded the Vietnam War Wall scholarships with the help of Mark Ward, Senior Vice Commander of the VFW, and Will Chaffee, Commander of the Waverly VFW.
Shaffer on her scholarship application cited her grandfather, who served in the army for 25 years during the Vietnam War and Korean War.
“His strength is an immense inspiration to me everyday and has made me more and more grateful for the life I am able to live thanks to him and many other servicemen and women,” she wrote.
Shaffer plans to attend Lycoming College for a degree in Medical Technology and to attain an internship at Hershey’s Medical Center.
Petrocco cited his grandfather, Michael Anthony Petrocco, who served in the army for two years during the Vietnam War.
“Up until this point, I never realized how proud I should be of him. Not everyone is lucky to get the type of grandpa I got. To this day he is my inspiration and my role-model,” he wrote. “I hope that one day, I too, can be a grandfather like he was and make just as much of a difference in the world. The shoes that I would have to fulfill to succeed in this is very big. However, I will do my very best to strive to be what my grandfather was, a hero.”
Petrocco plans to attend Mansfield University with a personal goal of publishing a best-selling novel in the future.
Zimmer cited his grandfather, Chris Robinson, a Vietnam vet who served in the Navy from 1969 to 1973.
“My grandfather is an inspiration to me because he put his life on the line to protect others, many of which he did not know. This shows me that bravery can outweigh the risk, even when the risks mean everything, including your life,” he wrote.
Zimmer plans on attending Alfred University for a degree in early childhood education with the goal of being a teacher close to home.
Hughes closed the award ceremony with a reminder for the seniors.
“I hope that you will always remember that the great opportunities that are in front of you came because of the sacrifices that those young men and women, whose names are on that wall, made, along with the many before and after,” Hughes said. “They never got the opportunities you are about the receive. Go and honor them by making the best of your lives.”