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DoD Students Bag 400 Scholarships in First Commissary Search

By Bonnie Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., July 19, 2001 – Look for celebrations around the world as local commissaries honor the nearly 400 recipients of the first annual Scholarships for Military Children.

Defense Commissary Agency headquarters here, for instance, held a "backyard" ceremony for three students. "Today is your day! You're off to Great Places!" Patt Courter, wife of agency director Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert J. Courter Jr., told the winners. "Kids, you'll move mountains!"

Other ceremony settings have ranged from field houses to commissaries, and high schools to auditoriums. Local touches have included an honor guard at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.; a special shamrock cake at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., for a recipient heading to Notre Dame; and a family affair at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., where a daughter's scholarship recognition took place along with her mother's military retirement ceremony.

"The program is a great way for commissaries and industry to get more involved in the military communities they serve," General Courter said at the Fort Lee ceremony. He noted that the company hired to handle the program reported the caliber of the scholarship winners is among the highest in the 500 programs it manages.

Agency officials said more than 5,000 young people applied for

List of scholarship winners available. [link no longer available]
scholarships. The "average" winner carried a grade-point average of 3.8 or higher, is a member of the National Honor Society or on a college dean's list, and a participant in more than 20 school, church or community activities.

While all the recipients have outstanding grades and community involvement in common, officials noted their backgrounds ranged far and wide.

"As long as I can remember my dad left for long voyages at sea," Claire Wulf of Naval Station Norfolk, Va., wrote in her mandatory contest essay. "I remember getting my ID card when I was ten and the pride I felt. I feel such pride and honor to know that I am military." The 14- year-old skipped high school and starts college this fall.

"My whole life has been the military, and the military is what makes my life so special," recipient Shannon Nash of Fort Hamilton, N.Y., wrote in her essay. "When I think of the military, I think of my father. He is the one that defines the military for me, and he is the one that showed me that being a military dependent is not about the things you must sacrifice for the military, but what you have gained from it."

Commissary vendors sponsored scholarships by donating money they normally set aside for advertising and contest prizes. Fisher House Foundation oversees the program and donations. The foundation operates homes that host families visiting loved ones in nearby military medical centers. Response was far better than anticipated -- commissary officials initially had hoped to collect enough money for just 280 scholarships -- one for every store in the agency.

(Bonnie Powell works for the Defense Commissary Agency at Fort Lee, Va.)

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