Freedoms Foundation member Harriet Harris was so moved by last spring's Memorial Day celebration at the National Cemetery that she wanted to do something to honor those who made the event so memorable.
"It was just so patriotic," she said. "It made you feel all red, white and blue."
On Sunday Ms. Harris got the chance to show her gratitude when she awarded the George Washington Medal Freedom from the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge to the Wilkes T. Thrasher Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4848.
The purpose of the Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge is to citizens about American history and constitutional governance. The national award acknowledged the post's impact on promoting the "American way of life" and "increasing the understanding of our American Heritage," according to Chattanooga member Bettye Parker.
State Rep. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who recommended the post for the award, joined County Commissioners Curtis Adams and Larry L. Henry for the ceremony at the Collegedale City Hall.
"They are always recognizing and doing things for veterans, and while the Memorial Day event is a highlight event, it's just a culmination of a lot of different things that they do throughout the community," he said.
Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge Essay contest winners:
* Certificate of Merit, Youth Essay: Adam Roddy, Amellia Hickman, Caitlin Grant, Samantha Frieday
* George Washington Honor Medal Youth Essay: Bethany LaFoe, Tryston Gilbert, Savannah Hague
The Foundation also recognized seven area high school students, whose essays on "The Purpose of Voting" distinguished them in the national essay contest on the topic.
Tryston Gilbert, 17, a senior at Whitwell High School, said he was inspired by the apathy he noticed in his neighborhood when many voters did not turn out to the polls after the precinct changed locations. He said that incident was a good example of how citizens sometimes allow their voices to go unheard.
Retired high school teacher and Freedoms Foundation member John L. Odom said he was encouraged to see young people thinking about the benefits of democracy.
"Sometimes we do have reason to be concerned about the future of our country because so few people seem to take the political processes seriously and seem to appreciate the good thing that we have," he said.
Mr. Odom said he grew up in the Philippines, where he witnessed about 15 people killed in the street by the military and the police. He said the Freedoms Foundation encourages patriotism, but teaches citizens to distinguish between honoring one's country and "blind nationalism."
"Our Bill of Rights is an amazing document and we must each remember that our own personal safety and security and protection is only as good as the security and protection that we afford to the worst criminal defendant or the worst terrorist suspect," Mr. Odom said. "Any one of us could be declared a 'terrorist suspect' and right now the way the government has interpreted the law - which has not yet been changed - you or I could be thrown incommunicado into Guantanamo Bay without recourse merely on the anonymous accusation of someone. And that's not what our Founding Fathers had in mind."