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South Jordan Journal

Bingham High junior pays tribute to veterans, receives college scholarship

Sep 11, 2023 12:43PM ● By Julie Slama

After winning the state VFW essay contest, Bingham High junior Elizabeth Hooper placed sixth in the nation. She’s pictured here with VFW auxiliary President Jane Reape and VFW National Commander Tim Borland. (Photo courtesy of the Hooper family)

“They are the ones who bled the scarlet stripes; who fought on the ocean of blue; who slept beneath a foreign sky, whose stars shone less brightly, so that we could raise our banner of stars undimmed.”

Those words Bingham High junior Elizabeth Hooper penned, thinking of those who have served our country from Dwight D. Eisenhower supervising the invasion of Normandy to John F. Kennedy piloting patrol torpedo boats in World War II to her neighbor, David Sparkman, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam.

Hooper wrote that as part of her audio essay, “National Treasures,” which was part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy national scholarship program.  She placed sixth in the nation and received $5,000 for college on March 6 in Washington, D.C. 

Earlier this school year, she received a wooden plaque from the district level and in late winter when she won the state contest, she was awarded a $240 scholarship, a crystal plaque and the trip to Washington, D.C. This summer, she also will travel to Valley Forge for a leadership camp.  

“I wrote a speech with the thesis, ‘why is the veteran important?’” she said. “I wrote it over three days and talked about how our veterans are our national treasures. I recorded it and I sent it in; I had no idea where this would take me,” she said after learning about the scholarship opportunity while paging through a library book when she was home with COVID-19. 

Hooper, who had both her great-grandfathers serve in the military, said she shared it with her neighbor.

“He’s the first person I read it to and he loved it,” she said.

During her four days in Washington, D.C., she visited national monuments, Arlington Cemetery, Smithsonian museums and went on a riverboat cruise on the Potomac River. She also traded Utah VFW pins with other state winners to collect all 50 state pins.

“It was my first time on a plane and my first time there. Since the speech was an audio essay, they had already judged it so there wasn’t any pressure on us. We just got to see everything and have a fun time before they announced who had won,” Hooper said.  “At the ceremony, they started with the countdown and the longer I was up there, the more excited the people who traveled with me were getting.  This all was a chance in a lifetime. I had hoped, but I was surprised I won along the way, and it was happening that I was in the top 10.”

Back in South Jordan, her family and friends watched the livestream, which included the 76th annual VFW Parade of Winners.

“When they announced my name, the first thing I did was credit my VFW people from Utah. They told me there were over 30,000 people who entered the contest. I was like, ‘Holy crap.’ I was so freakin’ lucky and blessed. I was definitely helped by God. I love writing. I feel a lot of what I wrote wasn’t just my ideas; it was inspired,” she said.

When she returned home, she shared her experience with her neighbor.

“He was excited for me, and I told him all the cool things I got to see and be a part of,” she said.

Hooper also enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy and wrote a 500-page novel by hand between her eighth grade and sophomore years’ summers.  She’s working on her second novel when she isn’t busy with the school chess club she started this year.  

She maintains a 4.0 GPA with a couple Advanced Placement classes and at Bingham has had a part in a school play, performs on the viola with the school orchestra and has run cross country and played soccer.

“Meeting so many people was one of the best parts of this scholarship experience. I have a friend from every state in the United States plus Japan and Europe and we made a big group chat to text. It will be fun to reconnect with everybody in Valley Forge,” she said.

Hooper is thinking of studying law at Brigham Young University, but also wants to keep writing.

“All these veterans have stories, so it’s got me thinking that I want to write my neighbor’s story or a short story that’s based on his story, and dedicate it to him,” she said. “That will be an honor.” λ