Video, story: Elks Lodge Americanism Essay Contest winners announced


From left in the front row are essay winners Joselena Ocampo, Heather McGowan, Alexander Forbes. From left in the back row are AJUSD Superintendent Dr. Krista Anderson; AJUSD Governing Board members Christa Rizzi, Cami Garcia and Michael Weaver; President Jodi Ehrlich; Vice President Dena Kimble; and Dennis Mack of Apache Junction Elks Lodge No. 2349. (Photo by Richard H. Dyer, Independent Newsmedia)

Three Apache Junction students who wrote winning papers with the theme “Why Our Veterans Are America’s Heroes” in an Elks Lodge No. 2349 Americanism Essay Contest were announced Feb. 13.

Winning first place and $100 was Heather McGowan, winning second place and $50 was Joselena Ocampo and winning third place and $25 was Alexander Forbes. All are students at Four Peaks Elementary School.

“The Elks had an essay contest. We do it every year. These essays go onto the Grand Lodge and they pick three people at the Grand Lodge level and these kids get up to $50,000 for scholarships, Dennis Mack, a member of Elks Lodge No. 2349 in Apache Junction, said.

All military men and women are heroes, he said.

“I can tell by the teachers, these kids think that the guys who are wounded, missing limbs and stuff are the heroes. But that’s not really true,” he said. “Like an aircraft carrier, it has 5,000 men on it to support 300 pilots. So this happens all through the military. It takes 26 support people to support one combat veteran. So everybody in the military has one thing in common – that is they miss their families and they’re lonesome. They are heroes. All of them. No matter if a combat veteran, a cook. Especially the nurses, the doctors. They are heroes too.”

The Elks Lodge is at 2455 N. Apache Trail. The website is

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at

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