The Kiwanis Club of Clarksville awarded nearly 30 area middle and high school students with $3,100 in awards and plaques for their winning entries in the annual essay contest, according to Kiwanian Ron Smithfield, who chairs the event.

“This is our 21st year of the Kiwanis Interview a Veteran Essay Contest, with now more than 28,000 students having interviewed veterans or active-duty military over the years,” Smithfield said. “Approximately 4,000 students’ essays were submitted this year.”

Each middle and high school winner received a plaque and $100 check from the Kiwanis Club of Clarksville.

Most inspiring and the most heroic award winners each received a plaque and an additional $50.

The Clarksville Montgomery County School System’s JROTC winners were each awarded $50 from the Kiwanis Club, and they received a certificate for the best essay from each high school JROTC program.

Winners announced   

The winning students’ names were announced Nov. 10 during the Kiwanis Club of Clarksville’s weekly meeting.

The winners were recognized with video excerpts via the internet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The title of this year’s essay was, “How did the veteran’s service and sacrifice inspire me?”

The grand prize winners in the contest were Pearl Kephart, an eighth-grade student at Mahaffey Middle School at Fort Campbell and Olivia Smith, a senior at Rossview High School.

Kephart, whose teacher is Melissa Taylor, interviewed and wrote about her great-aunt, Barbara Metz.

Smith, whose teacher is Angela Smith, interviewed and wrote about her father, Todd Smith.

The list of other middle school winners were Clarksville Academy’s Nicole Deeds, Immaculate Conception’s Elizabeth Nowell, Kenwood Middle School’s Justin Wyche, Montgomery Central Middle School’s Noah Thompson, who was also awarded most heroic essay for middle school, New Providence Middle School’s Karenna Frost, Northeast Middle School’s Cyrilyn Clemens, who was also awarded most inspiring essay for middle school contest, Richview Middle School’s Blake Dickey-Ballentine, Rossview Middle School’s Hadley Rudolph and West Creek Middle School’s Shaun Chumley.

The list of other high school winners were Clarksville Academy’s Katyanna Vason, and Frances Morrison, who was awarded the most inspiring essay for high schools, Clarksville High School’s Dawn Evans, who was also awarded most heroic essay, Kenwood High School’s Jadyn Cox, Middle College’s Hannah Perry, Montgomery Central High School’s Jason Denote, Northeast High School’s Rebecca Lee, Northwest High School’s Sarah Marks and West Creek High School’s Zenea Bridges.

JROTC awards were given to Clarksville High School Cadet Cpl. Jenna Mitchell; Kenwood High School Cadet Cpl. Sergio Zuno; Montgomery County High School Cadet Lt. Col. Cheyenne Douthitt; Northeast High School Cadet Capt. Reginald Randolph II; Northwest High School Cadet 1st Lt. Emily Sawyer; Rossview High School Cadet Capt. Isabella Morter; and West Creek High School Cadet Pvt. 1st Class Celest Maines.                                   

How did the veteran’s service and sacrifice inspire me?      

Pearl Kephart, Mahaffey Middle School at Fort Campbell

How did Great-Aunt Barbara’s Service & Sacrifice Inspire Me?

Strong Woman, Strong Soldier  

My Great-Aunt Barbara is a great source of inspiration to me. She was a member of the U.S. Army from April 1972-May 1992. She accomplished so much, and also faced many hardships. When she was younger her family was poor. She grew up in a log cabin with no running water. Then, the family moved to a farm where her father built a home with concrete blocks. As a young lady, she dreamt of traveling to wonderful places and museums that she had read about, but figured those opportunities were impossible. She worked in a shoe factory, and only earned $40 every two weeks. Great-Aunt Barbara’s story of resilience and bravery inspires me to fight for what I want and to face challenges that I may encounter in life.

It was hard for her to find just the right branch in which to serve. Her Uncle Bob was a Marine Corp recruiter. Her sister was in the Air Force (WAF). Both of those options were out. Her dad and Uncle Merle were in the Navy during WWII, so she went to the Navy Recruiter’s office. A sign on the door said they had gone to lunch. The Army Recruiters were across the hall, saw her instantly, and would not let her go. There was a Draft and War going on, and they had quotas to meet.

After her test, they quickly realized how smart she was. She joined the first AIT class that allowed women in the Army Security Agency (ASA). With so few women in the Army she lost track of how many times she was told she was the “first woman” to do something. She said, “It was kind of a kick, if you know what I mean.” Plus, her first paycheck in the Army was $283 a month with free room and board, clothing provided, and the opportunity to travel. It was an obvious “no-brainer.”

During her time she had several overseas assignments, including two with NATO which she really enjoyed and one in West Berlin before the Wall fell. She received a WWII Occupation Medal for her time in West Berlin. She said, “That freaks people out, because they do not realize that until the Wall fell, we were still under the treaties left over from WWII.” She even went through Checkpoint Charlie, and said it was “totally scary” because she was constantly watched by guards with machine guns. Also, while there President Reagan made his “Tear Down the Wall” speech. She was near the end of her pregnancy at the time, and had to sit through it while the other male soldiers stood.

 Her last tour was on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. She was part of the team that planned Desert Storm/Desert Shield under General Colin Powell. During the actual combat, my Great-Aunt Barbara was under the Pentagon in the War Room. She was responsible for sending orders to the field and making coffee for “...the three star who made speeches ‘informing the public’ of our status.” Soon after, she earned the rank MSG/E-8. It was very impressive for a woman during that period, and she was proud to keep that rank when she retired.

My Great-Aunt Barbara accomplished a great deal and received many awards during her military service. She showed bravery by pushing through obstacles to achieve what she wanted. Her resilience kept her going no matter how tough the situation. I know now that only I stand in the way of my wants and beliefs.

Olivia Smith, Rossview High School

Perspective, Purpose, and Preparation

It was more than a title… It was more than a badge…  It was more than an award…

It was a part of who he was, what he stood for, and who he is today. My dad, Todd Smith, is a veteran of the Army. He served as a crew chief on a Black Hawk helicopter for most of his young adult life. His service and sacrifice have made an everlasting contribution. He is just one of the “180,000 young Americans [who] enlist for active duty service in the Armed Forces” (“Who’s Joining the Military: Myth vs. Fact”).  For me, and my generation, veterans just like him inspire us to be brave, open-minded, prepared, and curious in order to fully understand ourselves and the world we live in. From his starting base in New Jersey, his deployment to Korea, and then his service at the Persian Gulf in Desert Storm exemplified his heroic behavior that translated into the man, husband, and father he is today. Without our veterans and their stories, our generation would not be able to understand the importance of service. It is our job to listen, learn, and change the world with the knowledge we obtain from our own American heroes, like my father.

“Your perspective will either become your prison or your passport” (Furtick as qtd. in Tada).  These words convey one of the most valuable ideas my dad learned while serving--perspective. He was stationed in both Korea and Saudi Arabia where he was able to “broaden his view of the world” (Smith).   Growing up in the same small town for all his life, this change for him was both uncomfortable yet thrilling. His curiosity allowed him to gain more knowledge and understanding of other cultures, government, militaries, and people. This could inspire my generation by learning the value of seeing situations from all aspects. Being open minded and aware of cultural differences is essential, regardless if serving in the military or not. A way he was able to fully see this was on his few off days when he would explore Korea. The structure of the military made him feel secure and comfortable enough to venture out and see the world, knowing that he would return back to a tent with supplies he needed. My dad's service showed me, and my generation, the value of perspective and curiosity. It is important to explore our world in order to fully understand what is going on around it. His bravery and courage of waking up on a foreign land everyday with no contact to his family but “a brief conversation on a payphone” to his mom-when he could find one-shows the kind of hero our veterans are: selfless and valiant (Smith).  My dad's service and sacrifice are truly eye opening.

After my dad served 7.5 years in the military, he had a new calling. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, “since 1944, the GI Bill has helped qualifying Veterans and their family members get money to cover all or some of the costs for school or training” (“About GI Bill Benefits”).   Under the GI Bill, my dad was able to pursue a career in the medical field. It made for such a smooth transition that my dad started school here at Austin Peay State University just days after leaving the military. He then was able to further his degree and graduate from Anesthesia School here in Tennessee. When asked to be chief of his nurse anesthetists group, it was a similar responsibility to his role of crew chief, where he learned some of the best leadership qualities. Serving in this position “really allowed [him] to be in the role [he] is in now” (Smith).  My dad mentioned that his experience in the military made him “calmer” and that he “does not get nervous anymore” when going into the emergency or operating room (Smith). Put in situations such as one in Korea where a missile just grazed by his helicopter, causing an emergency landing order,  or when a missile was shot off in Saudi Arabia by mistake from someone in his own unit, often he thought he was under attack. Both events challenged him to remain calm in all situations.  This reveals to people my age that past situations can prepare you for your future, even those you least expect. He never thought he would have the job he does now; due to his service, it was clear that he wanted a career with leadership opportunity and one that helps and aids others. Now, every day he gets to do his job doing exactly that.

The duration my dad spent serving is something that he will never forget. His sacrifice inspires me to have courage, put myself in someone else's shoes, discover things for myself, and lastly to “understand what is most important in life” (Smith).  Veterans stories will continue to be shared in order to impact future generations, like my own, who are soon to be entering the workforce. Having a clear understanding of what it means to have served our country is valuable. Listening to older generations and their stories regarding service is expected of us. If we want to change the world, we must be willing to listen. Their stories are more than just a recruiting military tv commercial. Their stories are more than a writing assignment for my English class. Their stories are a guide for us to use to make our world better. These veterans are more than just a title.

Works Cited

“About GI Bill Benefits.” United States Department of Affairs,  


Smith, Todd. Personal Interview. 26 Sep. 2020.

Tada, Joni. “Your perspective will either be your prison or passport.” in her vitality, 24 Apr.




“Who's Joining the Military: Myth vs Fact.”,


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