The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Throughout her high school years in Florence, South Dakota, Brittany Kuecker studied hard. She graduated with a B average and earned acceptance to South Dakota State University. A well-rounded student, she also participated in several extra-curricular activities, chief among them the Oral Interpretation team, earning four varsity letters for her excellence in inter-scholastic competitions. She also participated on the gymnastics team. Heavily involved in community activities outside school, Brittany Kuecker also holds Life Membership in the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

At the very end of the 19th century, veterans returning home from the Spanish-American War and the insurrection in the Philippines found no medical care to help them deal with wounds received in combat. In addition, there were no pension benefits for veterans who fought in America’s wars. They began to form organizations to represent them in their fight for medical and other benefits. From humble beginnings in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the various groups formed a nationwide organization, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), which boasted almost 200,000 members by 1936.

The VFW has been influential in many of the decisions that had tremendous impact, not only on the state of veterans’ benefits, but arguably the state of American society. For instance, it was instrumental in the development of what is now the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), a cabinet-level government agency. It has acted as a liaison between its members, all of whom have served in uniform overseas, and the VA. It has worked with the VA to locate veterans’ hospitals and other service centers, and to create a national system of cemeteries for veterans.

One of the most significant programs endorsed by the VFW, as well as other veterans’ organizations, was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill, passed by Congress in 1944. The bill provided returning service members with college tuition assistance, low-cost home mortgages, and low-interest loans to go into business. The VFW recently was successful in its encouragement of Congress to pass a G.I. Bill for the 21st Century.

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Brittany Kuecker Discusses Oral Interpretation

Also known as interpretive reading, oral interpretation allows an individual to express a work of written literature to an audience. This “oralization of literature” often, although not always, involves the speaker reading directly from a manuscript, and the staging may range from minimal to featuring props, lightning, and costumes. When interpreters recite to the audience, they imbue their act with the emotional and intellectual value of the original piece. Many performers research the author’s purpose in writing the original work in order to best present his or her vision.

High schools frequently participate in oral interpretation competitions. Students can typically choose to participate in one of several categories, including serious prose, dramatic interpretation, and humorous interpretation. Some tournaments even permit the use of original pieces. Along with the competitive element, oral interpretation can be utilized in other academic settings, such as to provide younger pupils with an understanding of various types of literature.

About the Author

A student at South Dakota State University and a member of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Brittany Kuecker lettered in oral interpretation four times while in high school.

Brittany Kuecker on Bicycle Safety

Riding a bike to school saves gas money, and you can feel good that you aren’t contributing toxic pollution into the environment. In addition to financial and environmental benefits, riding a bike keeps you in shape and saves money on a gym membership. It’s also a way to wake up in the morning, enjoy the great outdoors, and relax at the end of a busy day. A good-quality, properly fitting helmet is the first critical step to staying safe on a bicycle, but it’s only the beginning.

–Equip your bicycle with a front headlight. The light is required by law, and it keeps you safe by making you more visible to motorists. A helmet-mounted headlight is especially good, because it allows you to look directly at drivers, ensuring that they see you. An LED headlight will last much longer than an old-fashioned battery-operated headlight.

–Wear sturdy shoes. Avoid shoes and clothing that might get caught in the chain, such as loose pants or shoes with long shoelaces. Never wear heels or flip flops.

–Never wear earphones or headphones. It may be fun to listen to music while you ride your bike, but headphones prevent you from hearing noises around you (including car horns).

–Be sure your bicycle is equipped with a mirror. It can fit on your helmet, the handlebars, or even on your glasses. Although you should continue to look back over your shoulder, a mirror helps you to keep a constant eye on traffic.

–Honk when necessary. If your bicycle doesn’t have a horn, get one, and don’t be afraid to use it.

A busy college student who holds a demanding part-time job, Brittany Kuecker maintains a high level of physical fitness by riding her bike to classes at South Dakota State University. She also enjoys working out.