Patriots & Prose

Welcome to the Manor House Blog "Patriots & Prose"!

The Manor House blog is a place for Daughters to celebrate, reflect on, and uphold American ideals relating to core DAR values of patriotism, education, and historic preservation. The blog empowers our Daughters to give thought and voice to the fascinating, obscure, and thought-provoking facets of being American. 

Supporting Our Friends at U.S. Vets

With almost 80 committees on the state and national level, it can be daunting to find tasks for every committee to take part in during the DAR year. In an effort to show our chapter members, and our communities, that service should not be stressful, we explored a few interdisciplinary projects in 2023 that proved to be a major success, connecting multiple committees!

Today, we want to highlight one of those success stories, focused around our friends at U.S. Vets. 

"U.S.VETS is on a mission to end veteran homelessness in the United States. The organization was founded by veterans to serve fellow veterans and is the leading nonprofit dedicated to the work of helping veterans and their families transition from homelessness through tailored support to help them gain independence."

Manor House loves to support the men and women at US Vets, and have donated baked treats, decorations, and our time in the past. This fall, we took it a step further with a culminating project that brought together the DAR Service to Veterans, Literacy Promotion, Flag of the United States, and Conservation committees. 

It started as the brainchild of one of our chapter members, Elise, who is super star when it comes to plastic recycling. Through NexTrex, she has earned multiple benches for community organizations, and for Manor House! During the summer, chapter members recycled over 500 pounds of plastic to earn a beautiful bench, which Elise knew would be a great addition to the outdoor space at US Vets. 

We didn’t want to just drop off the bench and run though—not when there were so many more ways to be involved. Instead, we showed up with a full trunk, and full arms. 

First the bench, of course. The beautiful, sturdy bench with a custom plaque about our partnership was presented to the staff at US Vets, who helped us pick out the perfect position for the bench so that residents could enjoy it all year long. 

Elise, as Conservation chair, not only spearheaded this, but she also incorporated her other role as the chapter Flag of the United States chair. While we were working on our bench, Elise scoped out the area and noted that, time and time again, US Vets was dutiful about flying the flag, keeping it aloft and mighty. She received chapter approval to present the staff with a Flag of United States Certificate celebrating their patriotic service in this way, and took part in lowering the flag to half mast to honor a recently deceased senator. 

Our day at US vets was not over yet though. It was just about lunch time, and we had a basket of sweet treats to put in the lunch room for the veterans to enjoy with their afternoon and evening meals.  If you are ever looking for a recipient of your latest baked creation, look no further than our favorite veterans!

We had a few more pounds to shed at US Vets though—-our chapter 1st Vice Regent and local librarian Aryssa had brought approximately 30 brand new, recently published books that she had acquired through her work on a national award committee to add to the bookshelves in the US Vets Community area. These books spanned genre, interest, and were as diverse as the residents—which got them excited to pick up some new books that maybe hadn’t crossed their radar yet. 

By the time Manor House daughters left US Vets that afternoon, they were almost a hundred pounds lighter and their hearts a lot fuller. We love serving US Vets and other community partners doing the good work, and finding ways to support them not just through one committee, but through an interdisciplinary approach that coordinates efforts, time, and resources to provide the most benefit we can at one time. 

Want to be a part of our next interdisciplinary project? Reach out to us @

125 Years of Service

From October 2022 to October 2023, Manor House Chapter celebrated 125 years of service, and as 2023 comes to a close, we are excited to head into our 126th year!

Our birthday celebrations began with our October 2022 Day of Service, where we prepared 25 birthday bags for a local food pantry at a public housing complex. Each bag was packed with love by daughters and contained a cake mix, frosting, candles, balloons, a cake pan, and a special birthday treat. These were then delivered to James Creek, a housing complex in SW DC to be given out during their monthly pantry. Manor House daughters loved getting to see the direct impact these birthday bags made right away to people in our immediate community. 

On January 6th, 2023, we celebrated the 125th anniversary of our chapter. In January, we held a special anniversary tea with chapter members, associates, state officers, and a national officer in attendance. We had a presentation on the history of the chapter, our founding regent Mrs. Ballinger, and the relationship we have with our namesake historic home, the Van Cortlandt Manor House in New York. Pictures of the chapter throughout time decorated the room and every attendee was invited to complete a Manor House History crossword puzzle. 

Our May 2023 meeting also provided an overview of the chapter history for those who could not attend the tea, and we played Manor House trivia!  Later that month, our 1st Vice Regent was able to visit another home owned by the Van Cortlandts, the Van Cortlandt House Museum in the Bronx where she toured the historic rooms, saw the amazing American History quilt on display and shopped for goodies in their gift shop. 

In September 2023, our chapter proudly presented local artist Samantha Testa with a Woman in the Arts Recognition Award. Testa is not only an accomplished artist, but she has a special place in Manor House history, as she created a beautiful watercolor rendering of our namesake Van Cortlandt Manor House which is now cherished by the chapter. 

Our October 2023 Chapter Day of Service brought our anniversary year full circle as we cleaned the grave of Benjamin Burch, the patriot ancestor of our founding chapter regent, Mrs. Ballinger. We look forward to marking the grave formally and sharing more about Mr. Burch’s story in 2024. 

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our 125th year! We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for year 126!

Celebrating Veterans All Year Long

By Elise F.

Members of our chapter volunteered at the event~ A Nation Honors our Vietnam Veterans and their Families ~on the National Mall on May 12 & 13, 2023 at the NSDAR tent from 12:30 - 3:30 pm each day to welcome veterans and visitors. 

The interactive, immersive experience on the Mall featured over ninety participating organizations hosting tents at Camp Legacy’s two locations, and was open to the public. 

On Friday, I arrived at the Foggy Bottom metro and proceeded to walk to the Camp Legacy event site. Quickly I was chased down by a shuttle bus driver, who saw me hustling down the sidewalk in my DAR event shirt, threw open the empty shuttle bus doors and offered me a ride. On Saturday, knowing these idling unbranded shuttles at the curb were for the event I boarded and identified other potential attendees to use this transportation option. 

The NSDAR tent was well placed near a tented gathering space with tables, entertainment and speakers.  At the tent we had welcoming activities for visitors and veterans. A large banner for veterans to sign with their dates and location of service.  The photo wall of DAR members and families who served was engaging. I was thrilled to  be part of the wall. The photo showed I was ready for my first ‘Honor Flight’ greeting in March 1969 at Dulles Airport to greet my cousin, William “Bill” Clark, returning from Vietnam.

Additionally, we presented DAR branded commemorative coins to Vietnam veterans we engaged with at the tent.  A touching experience with each recipient. 

On Saturday, at 1 pm, a Welcome Home Celebration, on a large multi-media stage was 

co-hosted by NFL legend and broadcaster Joe Theismann, and former Miss America and ESPN reporter Sharlene Wells Hawkes, as well as other special guests. It included multimedia effects, jumbotrons, narration, singing, military bands and guest performers all honoring our Vietnam veterans and their families. The rain held off except for some light drizzle during part of the performances.  This did not dampen the enthusiasm of the beautiful production or spirit of the sparce audience gathered for the event. 

As attendance at the event was extremely light, tents closed down early on Saturday.  The weather indeed kept the public away. Additionally, it was my understanding that publicity to the public about this 3-day event was inadequate to draw the number of attendees anticipated each day. That was disappointing, as the exhibits, entertainment and transportation support for attendees were well prepared and welcoming.  

On Friday night, May 26, I followed up this experience by attending the free ticketed concert event with Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band at Constitution Hall with my son.  We assisted attendees attending the vigil at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial following the concert.

October 2022 Day of Service

By Aryssa Damron

Every October, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) hosts a “Day of Service,” in which we are encouraged to do service projects within the society’s three mission areas–education, patriotism, and historic preservation. The annual day of service usually occurs around October 11th, the anniversary of our founding. NSDAR chapters participate in service opportunities throughout the year, but October is really a chance for us to make a statement to the American public about our goals and to feel united in support of one mission. 

This year, in honor of the NSDAR’s birthday and Manor House’s upcoming 125th anniversary, our chapter’s “Day of Service” project was birthday-themed!

Birthdays are a big deal for many, but the cost of supplies, including baking a cake, can be prohibitive when a family is on a limited income. Inspired by online ideas and the CAR packet, Manor House daughters went shopping and prepared birthday bags with the intent to help families experiencing food insecurity have a special day. 

Chapter “Service to America” Chair, Aryssa Damron, coordinated with the James Creek Housing Complex regular food bank to receive bags that each included a disposable cake pan, a cake mix, frosting, candles, balloons, some birthday-themed gear, and a special gift, such as books and puzzles.  

Daughters gathered at the home of our Chapter Regent on Wednesday, October 19th, to assemble the bags over pizza and great conversation. Building the bags was a great chance for daughters to catch up with each other and talk about the tangible impact these bags were going to have on the community. Birthday bags aren’t flashy, but when it’s the only way a little boy or girl gets a birthday cake that year, they can mean the world. With our own chapter’s birthday coming up, it felt like a fitting activity! 

The bags were given out the following Tuesday at the James Creek bimonthly foodbank, where community members got a chance to pick up hearty food for their pantries and, if they had a birthday that month, a bag to make the birthday extra sweet, packed with love by the Manor House DAR chapter. 

An Interview with Aryssa Damron, NSDAR American Heritage 2nd Place Winner, Drama

By Serena Bell

Each year the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution administers an American Heritage Contest for DAR members to show their talent in the arts, with an annual theme. The 2020 theme was “Rise, and Shine Your Light on Your Revolutionary War Patriot.” Submissions are judged on the follow criteria: Quality of Work, Originality, Incorporation of Theme, and Written Expression of Theme. 

Manor House Librarian Aryssa Damron submitted a play titled “Just in Time, Henry Wood” and we are proud of her selection as the 2nd place National Winner, Drama! Chapter Registrar Serena Bell interviewed Aryssa on her inspiration for the play. [A detailed explanation can be found in an earlier blog post, "Going Back in Time to Meet my Ancestor"].

Serena: Tell me about your DAR Patriot. 

Aryssa: My Patriot, Henry Wood, was a Methodist minister in North Carolina. He participated in the battle of Guilford Court House. The Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) honored him with a ceremony several years ago. 


Serena: Have you written a play before? 

Aryssa: Yes, in college [as an undergraduate at Yale] I competed in a 24-hour play contest—we wrote, directed, practiced and performed a play in 24 hours! 

Serena: What inspired you to write this play? 

Aryssa: I through of the children’s book “Just in Time, Abe Lincoln” by Patricia Polacco. It centers on two boys who are visiting Gettysburg and get taken back in time to the Civil War. Traveling back in time and meeting my ancestor would be a key element of the show, but I didn’t want to be bound by making myself the main character. Instead, I imagined someone who could be one of my cousins--Penelope Slaughter. Slaughter is a family name, and Penelope actually came, in my mind, from Pennuel, one of the sons of my ancestor, Henry Wood.

Serena: What was the most challenging part of writing this play for the American History contest? 

Aryssa: The entry length for the submission! I had a big vision and when I realized the maximum length of eight pages, I had to be more succinct that I had originally planned.  

The 2021 American Heritage theme is “Rise, and Shine Your Light on Our House Beautiful.” 

The British Failed Southern Campaign During the American Revolution

By Ashley Sylvester

Longer paper can be found here.

There were many reasons why British Joint operations in the South failed during the American Revolution from 1778 to 1781, but according to Carl von Clausewitz, “If you want to overcome your enemy you must match your effort against his power of resistance, which can be expressed as the product of two inseparable factors, viz. the total means at his disposal and the strength of his will” (Clausewitz 77). During the Southern campaign, the British’s resources and attentions were not fully devoted to the war in America and the American will to win was greater than British. The Americans were fighting for an ideology—the belief in their freedom and liberty from foreign rule—versus the British who were fighting for power and control over a land thousands of miles away. These reasons, coupled with a breakdown in leadership and vision for the Southern campaign and French involvement in the American Revolution, led to Britain’s ultimate defeat. The British underestimated their adversary’s passion for independence and willingness to have a war of attrition or a protracted war to meet her political ends.

To summarize, the main reasons why the British failed in their Southern Campaign are:

1)    While the British would have preferred to commit all resources to squashing the American rebellion, the British faced pressure from the French and the Spanish at home and in more profitable colonies like the West Indies;

2)    The resources that the British provided their troops on the ground were limited and resources were very difficult for British troops to secure due to the constant threat of attack by the patriots;

3)    The lack of commitment from the Loyalists to fight for the British cause, in addition to the small number of troops who actually joined to fight, led to strong strategic and operational failure for the British forces that they were never able to recover from;

4)    The lack of centralized power for British decision-making on logistics, moving resources, and communicating effectively with leaders on the ground;

5)    Due to misinformation, bad intelligence and lack of communication between British units, British leadership made terrible decisions regarding their strategic and operational movements.

6)    The strength of the American will to fight for sovereignty;

7)    Additional French resources and naval power at the end of the war that split British resources and attentions to the profitable West Indies.

In the end, the patriot Americans and the French’s one battle of unified joint operations against the British at Yorktown destroyed the British will to continue the war and quickly after, the British declared the end of the war. The British may have had multiple instances where their joint operations were in sync in the Southern campaign (Charleston as an example), but at the end, the additional French resources and the patriot American’s will for independence lost the British the war. The strategy in the South was based in rationality and with potential to succeed; however, British leaders tasked with making operational and tactical decisions made conclusions based on the best possible outcomes, thus skewing the British’s net assessment of the engagement.

Works Cited

Allison, Robert J. The American Revolution: A Concise History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Carpenter, Stanley D.M. “British Strategic Failure in the Southern Campaign, 1778-1781.” Naval War College Paper, 2008.

Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Lib. of Cong. U.S. Govt. Web. 5 November 2017. <>.

Mahan, Alfred Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783. New York: Dover, 1987.

O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.  

Image: “Cow representing English commerce being milked and dehorned by France, Spain, Holland, and the United States while the British lion sleeps, during the American Revolutionary War.” Lib. of Cong. U.S. Govt. Web. 5 November 2017. <>.

Going Back in Time to Meet My Ancestor: A 2020 American Heritage Contest Entry

By Aryssa Damron

When I was brainstorming for this year’s American Heritage Contest---the theme was “Rise and Shine Your Light on Your Revolutionary War Patriot”--I was initially at a loss. I knew the basics about my ancestor, Rev. Henry Wood of South Carolina. I was never the family genealogist, but I was the family storyteller, and there is where I found my way forward for this year’s contest. Not through a quilt or a costume, a painting or a photograph, but through the pen. Alright...through a keyboard. 

Last year, as part of a career goal, I re-read all the picture books of Patricia Polacco, an absolute queen of the genre who writes longer-form pictures books. The story draws you in as much as the picture -- and she can really yank you in. Most of her books make me tear up.  While the majority of her books draw on her real-life experiences, I found one book that was different. It was called ‘Just in Time, Abe Lincoln’ and it centered on two boys who are visiting Gettysburg and get taken back in time to the Civil War! As you can guess from the title, President Abe Lincoln narrowly saves the day, and them, and their love of history is cemented forever as they come back to the present day. 

As I considered how to use my words to enter this year’s contest -- I did not have the skill set to crochet the likeness of Henry Wood in a blanket or scarf -- I thought of this book immediately. I thought of how fun time travel was, and how I loved to see it used in unique ways. 

I’m not an artist though, and so instead of a picture book, I imagined a play. Traveling back in time and meeting my ancestor would be a key element of the show, but I didn’t want to be bound by making myself the main character. Instead, I invented a cousin: Penelope Slaughter. Slaughter is a family name, and Penelope actually came, in my mind, from Pennuel, one of the sons of my ancestor, Henry Wood. 

Every story needs an exciting incident, and in the Polacco story, it’s boredom. I wanted something more though. One thing my DAR chapter, Manor House, has never shied away from in our events is letting veterans talk about their experiences today. We’ve hosted groups who help veterans with PTSD and trauma, who help them find jobs after deployments, et cetera. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that veterans today face real issues, and that it’s likely veterans of the past dealt with their own issues. PTSD may be a recent diagnosis, but it’s not a recent phenomenon. That’s when this dual story came to me. I love chiasmic stories -- stories that tell a parallel narrative using separate characters or timelines. Using that literary technique, I imagined my main character Penelope traveling in time to meet her ancestor, Henry, and through speaking with him, she unlocks something about her relationship with her own father, a veteran of Afghanistan. 

To weave in some reality to my imagination, I took the biographical data I knew about my ancestors -- names, birthdates, ages after the war, wives and brothers, the battles he fought in. It was all readily available through tombstones, death records, and a commemorative ceremony held for my ancestor by the Sons of the Revolution years ago. It took nothing but a few keystrokes and a Google search to verify the date on which Henry Wood’s daughter Charity was born, and the year his first wife died. 

The biggest problem I faced in this contest entry was the limitations on length. 8 pages of a play isn’t much of a play at all, especially when you have to establish two timelines, multiple sets of characters, and build some heft into the emotional moments, but I did what I think was my best. The length is definitely a win for some of the other categories -- a 15-line poem can be cranked out in an afternoon, and could end up being a national winner without taking up a whole page!

As my writing drew to a close, I knew the final moment I wanted, and I hope that the characters’ attempts to “try and understand” not only moves the judges but can inspire me in my continuing service work with veterans of the present. We will never have the same experiences. We can never truly know what they want through, but we can try and understand by listening and researching, and that is what inspired my American Heritage contest entry. 

Image: Henry Wood tombstone

DAR Journeys: Visiting Crossnore School

By Serena Bell

This past summer, my family embarked on a trip to North Carolina. As we drove through winding roads of the mountains outside Blowing Rock, I noticed a sign for the town of Crossnore. As a newer DAR member who recently took the Member’s Course, the town Crossnore sounded familiar to me. After a quick Google search, I realized that a DAR school, Crossnore School & Children’s Home, is located there! 

The Crossnore School & Children’s Home provides a wide range of services for children and young adults in a residential setting. To support the school, the grounds host several stores open to the public to assist with raising funds for the school and specific programs. This includes a thrift store, a coffee shop, and a weaving and fine arts gallery. We took a detour to the thrift store where there were some great finds to be had -- if we only had more space in our car! After making a few purchases, we returned to our original journey enriched with Crossnore School literature for further reading. 

I am so glad I was able to make a quick visit to the school and better connect to the mission of DAR. Some ways our chapter supports Crossnore School and other DAR schools include:

Image: Serena at Crossnore

Librarian's Nook: Tolliver's Secret

By Aryssa Damron, Manor House Librarian and Zachary, George Washington Society (C.A.R.) Librarian

Here at Manor House, we love books and we love what books can teach readers--young, old, and in between about history! As chapter librarian, I love leading our book club discussions and recommending books to members for themselves and their children on the American Revolution.

One such member, Layla, and her son, Zachary, have been so gracious as to review an American Revolutionary book for us. 

Zachary, a member of the CAR George Washington chapter, reviewed Tolliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady. 

From the publisher, "When her grandfather is injured, 10-year-old Ellen Toliver replaces him on a top-secret patriotic mission. Disguised as a boy, she manages to smuggle a message to General George Washington."

Here's Zachary's review: 

"Toliver’s Secret was interesting and the anticipation for Toliver to deliver the letter was really what made it shine. There were a lot of good scenes but my favorite is the Redcoat boat and it is really interesting and you’re wondering what’s going to happen next. "

We definitely recommend this book for any lover of books who wants to learn more about this period in history, and this book, while intended for children, is a great book for all ages to explore how we can blend fiction and history to engage readers into more research into the period. 

Image: Tolliver's Secret book cover

Constitution Week Trivia and Music!

By Kristen Maddux, Manor House Constitution Week Chair

Constitution Week, September 17 - 23.

In 1955, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned Congress with a resolution; this week of observance for the foundation of the American form of government was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 2, 1956. The commitment of the NSDAR is to encourage study and educate the public about the Constitution, which was adopted by the American Congress of the Confederation on September 17, 1787.

If you want to liven up Zoom calls with friends and family this week, try a game of Constitution trivia with these 5 facts about signers of the U.S. Constitution. 

1. Who signed the Constitution twice, once for himself and once for his friend who had to leave the convention early due to exhaustion? (Answer: George Read of Delaware). 

BONUS QUESTION: Who was his friend who had to leave the convention early? (Answer: John Dickinson)

2. Who spent a million dollars of his own money to finance the battle of Yorktown? (Answer: Robert Morris of Pennsylvania. He ended up in “Prune Street” debtor’s prison for 3 1⁄2 years when he couldn’t pay the taxes on his vast land holdings.)

3. Which signer introduced the New Jersey Plan, which favored the small states, and is known as “The Father of the United States Senate?” (Answer: William Patterson of New Jersey)

4. Who was the youngest delegate? (Answer: Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey). 

BONUS QUESTION: How old was he? (Answer: twenty-six years old)

5. Who supported the Connecticut Compromise, which initially settled the big states - little states arguments over representation, and was known as “Mr. Compromise?” (Answer: Roger Sherman from Connecticut)

Source: The Founders – the 39 stories behind the U.S. Constitution.


If you’re “Zoomed out”, check out The Most Perfect Album featuring songs inspired by each of the 27 amendments by some of the best musicians in the world!

19th Amendment, by Dolly Parton

Being American: American Values in German

By Kelsey Gerber

Today’s narrative of what it is to be American is often complicated and sometimes fraught. But there are many ways to be American, and the diversity of American experiences, good and bad, weave together into the unique fabric of the nation. My own life and the roots on which it is built, deeply American in many ways, offer one version of the American dream, its costs, and its legacy. 

My maternal grandfather Woody’s ancestors arrived from Germany in the mid-1700s, and my many greats-grandfather, Peter, fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War. Many of his hundreds of descendants (he had 12 children!) remained in the same sleepy, rural Pennsylvania county and were buried in the cemetery next to the Lutheran church Peter helped build, where I would one day sing in children’s choir over 200 years later. 

Though Woody and generations before him were born and raised two hours from New York City and 90 minutes from Philadelphia — the birthplace of our nation — my grandfather grew up speaking German. He didn’t learn to speak English until he attended a one-room schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania in the 1940s. When Woody joined the military not long after the start of the Vietnam War, his German fluency deployed him to Germany instead of Vietnam. He was stationed on the West side, the free side, when the Berlin Wall went up one night in 1961. It must have been a surreal experience to be there, in the land of his forefathers, as the United States’ rival drew its physical and metaphorical lines in the sand.

After the war a job with a union allowed this same German-speaking poor farmer to achieve the American Dream, working his way to the middle class by putting in long hours away from home. The New Deal Era policies, continued through the middle of the century, offered Woody opportunities today’s generations struggle to replicate. Maybe most American of all, Woody worked endless overtime and many years later retired with over six months of unused vacation, having believed in no such thing as work-life balance. 

All the time he spent working to provide complicated his ability to be an active part of the family, bequeathing to my mother mixed consequences, values, and behaviors -- and from her passed a new, complex set of values to her children. And in dramatic irony, a rare form of cancer, likely caused by environmental factors he was exposed to in long hours on the job, took the life of the otherwise healthy Woody in May of 2020, at a time when his family could not celebrate his life and hard work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, my grandfather’s hard work put his eldest grandchild, me, through college, giving me the best opportunity he had to offer, for which I am eternally grateful. With that came a spoken hope that I would help and guide my four younger siblings to success as much as possible; the unspoken expectation that I would forge a legacy and do more than he, who had to quit school in 8th grade to work on the family farm, could dream of achieving. 

 This myriad of values, of Americanisms, blended differently in each of my siblings; it created cynicism and pragmatism, extreme emotions and lack of empathy, complacency and ambition in combinations unique to each of us, as we each through inheritance and observation developed our own version of being American.

In me it created unfettered idealism that has been muddied by experience. After all, it’s the rare American who, despite being told as much, can actually grow up to be anything they want without the right connections.

My family and its lived history has also created a drive in me to want something better for myself and those around me, just as Woody wanted for his family and Peter wanted for his adopted nation. Not only was this part of what drove me to join DAR as a way to offer my time and energy to causes I think are important, it also drove me to dedicate myself to working for an organization that aims to create more opportunity -- and a common purpose in making the country better -- through national service like AmeriCorps. 

I want to do what I can to ensure all Americans have access to all of the best parts of being American that my grandfather and his many greats-grandfather before him fought for. After all, what is more American than working for a better America?

Image: Woody Steigerwalt in his military uniform, 1959